Pike hails improving side after 'fantastic fightback'

Michael Smith, left, in action for Bury this season Picture: Sharon Lucey

‘Terrific professional’ Smith earns Pompey boss praise

Gosport Borough staged a dramatic fightback to salvage a 3-3 draw against Paulton Rovers in the Southern League division one South & West at a wet and windy Privett Park.

The home side appeared to be dead and buried as they trailed 3-1 with 15 minutes remaining but two strikes from Dave Birmingham, one from the penalty spot, rescued a point.

'I am pleased with the way the lads never gave up, particularly in the conditions,' said Borough boss Alex Pike.

'We didn't use the weather conditions as we should have done in the first half.

'Then to concede a goal after having three chances to clear was very disappointing.

'With the wind at their backs the momentum was with them in the second half but we can't deny it was a fantastic fightback. Two months ago this is a game we would have lost.'

Both teams had early chances before Justin Bennett capitalised on a poor clearance kick by the visiting keeper to give Borough a 13th minute lead.

Borough paid the price for not clearing their lines on 29 minutes as Ben Lacey fired home.

Two goals in five minutes, midway through the second half, put the visitors in charge and Hutchings had to produce an excellent save to prevent Borough falling further behind.

In a grandstand finish, a Paulton player was adjudged to have blocked a fierce Birmingham drive with his hands and the experienced defender fired his spot-kick home.

In the last minute Paulton defender Lee Marshall was sent off for fouling James Taylor on the edge of the area.

From the resulting free-kick, Pete Castle's low drive was spilled and Birmingham reacted quickest to knock the rebound high into the net.

'The confidence is starting to flood back and the mood in the changing room has turned,' said Pike.

'We have made an unbeaten start to the year and shown that we can compete against the best teams at our level.

'I thought we underachieved in 2010 but we have now got some winnable games coming up.

'If we can put a run of wins together then we can get ourselves back up in the play-offs which is where we want to be.'

Gosport Borough: Hutchings; Cox, Birmingham, Arnold, Castle, Cook, Wooden, Jones, Lynch (Ford 51mins), Bennett, Taylor.

Att: 179.