DANNY Bowers paid tribute to inspirational skipper Jamie Barron and his entire Folland Sports team after they had become the first side to beat Alresford Town in the Sydenhams Premier Division in 2014.
With both clubs boasting identical records of 13 wins and a draw in their previous 14 games, something had to give in Saturday’s titanic third-versus-first clash at Follands Park.
And it was the home team who edged it thanks to midfielder Barron’s 25th goal of a magnificent season.
Pip Nolan delivered a long throw, the towering figure of Matt Burt flicked it on and Barron’s precise shot hit both posts on its way in.
“That just marks the unbelievable season Baz (Barron) has had,” smiled Bowers. “It doesn’t surprise me at all.
“When you need a goal, you look no further than your team captain.
“We could see Baz was struggling a bit with his hamstring, but he said ‘I’m not coming off for nothing!’ “The chances were that someone’s record was going to be beaten and well done to our boys for getting the job done.
“It was a real hard-fought game of football but there wasn’t a bad tackle in it.” It was only the third league game all season in which Alresford had failed to score – the previous two were both in August!
Had Zach Glasspool’s early effort been a fraction lower it could have been a different story, but the first threatening shot of the day skimmed the crossbar.
With fit-again Iain Calder and his fellow Follands defenders in stubborn mood, that was as good as it got for Alresford who lost rear gunner Lee Wood to injury shortly before Barron scored.
Follands had already threatened when Mike Turvey dragged an effort wide following Richard Gregory’s one-two with Ryan Long and then Long unleashed a shot which Wood did well to block.
Just before the break, Glasspool found himself a rare pocket of space but could only head Chris Manning’s cross wide.
The Planemakers stepped it up in the second half and Bowers was convinced they had scored a second on the hour.
Joe Wright’s slip gave the hard-running Long a chance to lob advancing keeper Jason Collins, but it trickled agonisingly wide.
“I was already celebrating, but then I turned round and saw it had gone past the post,” said Bowers.
“We could have had two or three goals and, if we had, people would have thought it was an easy game. But it wasn’t. Alresford are a fantastic side with quality all over the pitch. For me, they’re on a par with Sholing.”
Follands have temporarily leapfrogged Sholing into second but, realistically, it’s third spot they are aiming for.
“We’ve got three ‘cup finals’ to come at Horndean on Saturday, then at Sholing (21st) and at home to Bemerton (26th) and it’s in our hands to finish third,” said Bowers.
Alresford must lift themselves for tonight’s North Hants Senior Cup final against Whitchurch United at Andover New Street’s Foxcotte Park.