WINCHESTER City boss Neil Hards made a triumphant return to his old club Newport IoW on Saturday.

Following back-to-back defeats by Alresford and Follands, the league leaders got their promotion push back on track with a 2-0 victory at St George’s Park where ex-goalkeeper Hards was once a familiar figure between the sticks.

Established campaigners Chris Flood, right, and Chris Mason got the all-important goals, but particularly pleasing for City was the amount of emerging talent on show.

“It was gratifying that three of our best players – Daryl Phillips, Jon Borg and Ben Stanbrook – were playing reserve football earlier this season,” said director of football Dave Malone.

“With Ryan Holloway and Reece Rusher on the bench, a ‘home-grown’ influence was very much in evidence.

“Much credit should go to (reserve team boss) Grant Orchard, who has done an amazing job for us in nurturing this talent.”

Rusher – son of former Andover and Eastleigh striker Vince – is not technically home-grown, having just signed from Andover Lions.

But the 17-year-old frontman’s arrival marks a continuation of City’s policy of unearthing bright, young talent from further down the footballing pyramid.

“Hopefully Reece is one for the future,” said Malone. “We are intending to look at more players in the lower leagues as often as we can.”

With Sholing in FA Vase action, Winchester have opened up a four-point gap at the top of the Sydenhams Premier – albeit that they have played eight league games more than the Boatmen.

They have the opportunity to forge even further ahead tonight at home to struggling Downton.

Sholing do not play until Thursday when they visit Moneyfields.