And Birmingham says Howes' determination to carry on and put in the performance he did for his team showed exactly why he is the Deans' skipper.
But it was captain Howes - completing the full 90 minutes despite being sick in the changing room at half-time - who stood out at Stoneham for Horndean boss Birmingham.
‘It’s not all about the Zak Willett’s and the Connor Duffin’s, you’ve got the other people behind them,’ said Birmingham.
‘You’ve got my captain (Ash Howes) who, to be honest, had a sickness and diarrhoea bug that’s going around but he still played 90 minutes and was outstanding.
‘I’ve got my captain climbing off his sick bed and putting in the performance that he had. Some people say to me, ‘why’s he your club captain blah, blah, blah,’ he’s my captain because he does what he did (at Stoneham).
‘When you look around for your leader, your captain and someone who at half-time was being sick in the changing room and couldn’t get off the toilet, when he goes and puts in a performance like he did - that’s why he’s my captain.’
Willett was on hand to fire the Deans in front on 10 minutes with a fine, drilled finish. Horndean survived a scare when Cade Dyer's free-kick cannoned off the crossbar nine minutes after the restart, but Stoneham did level two minutes later when Matthew Bainbridge headed past goalkeeper Cameron Scott.
Birmingham's table-toppers, without a win in their previous two outings prior to the Stoneham trip, restored their advantage on 63 minutes as Willett fired in goal number 30 of the season.
Willett then curled home brilliantly four minutes later to complete his hat-trick as the Deans remain top on goal difference from Hamworthy, although they have two games in hand.
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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