Who would be foolish to write off Borough’s chances?

Justin Bennett clashes with Brandon Haunstrup during Borough's pre-season game with Pompey  Picture: Steve Reid Blitz Photography
Justin Bennett clashes with Brandon Haunstrup during Borough's pre-season game with Pompey Picture: Steve Reid Blitz Photography
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The rise of Gosport Borough up the non-league ranks in recent years has been nothing less than remarkable.

The Privett Park side have moved from the Wessex League to the brink of the National League South play-offs in the space of 10 years.

Alex Pike was appointed manager in December 2005, and in his first full season in charge led Borough to the Wessex Premier title – their first for 29 years.

After three seasons in the Southern League south & west division, Gosport then earned two successive promotions through the play-offs to take their place in the National League South.

Many predicted Pike’s side would struggle to survive but, in true Borough roller-coaster style after a difficult start, they improved to finish well clear of the drop zone.

In addition, they also made a first-ever Wembley appearance in the FA Trophy final.

The club continued their habit of breaking new ground last season when they made their first-ever appearance in the FA Cup first-round proper, taking on Football League Colchester United at Privett Park.

They also went close to making the play-offs in another terrific campaign.

Pike is confident he has assembled a squad this summer that can go one better again and earn a play-off place.

The colourful character has made a habit of proving his doubters wrong so many times over the years that it would be foolish to argue with him.

Their budget may not be the greatest in the league but Pike has built a reputation of taking on players discarded by other clubs and moulding them into a tight-knit unit.

That has certainly been true with a number of players who have made the short journey from local rivals, the Hawks.

Goalkeeper Nathan Ashmore, along with defenders Brett Poate and Sam Pearce, plus midfielders Steve Ramsey and latest arrival Perry Ryan, have all made that move.

The biggest question mark facing Borough, though, is can they replace goalscorer Matt Paterson following his move to the Hawks?

Paterson and Justin Bennett formed a potent partnership last term, notching more than 50 goals in all competitions between them.

Pike has brought in Jamie White from Sutton United and already has Lee Wort in his squad from last season.

If one or both can forge a similar partnership with Bennett – the league’s golden boot winner last season – then Borough could once again thrive.

The key to success, however, could prove to be the acquisition of experienced midfielder Ben Harding from Torquay United.

Pike persuaded Harding that semi-professional football with Borough would be the perfect fit for his ambitions to become a teacher.

The player has shown his quality during pre-season and could prove to be a major coup.

One of the strengths of Borough – who entertain Horndean tonight in their final pre-season friendly before hosting St Albans in their opener on Saturday – in recent times has been the spirit and resilience in the camp.

They will need all those qualities in a National League South that promises to be the toughest yet, but it would be foolish to write off their chances.