Petersfield Town co-manager Pat Suraci hailed his side’s mentality after they secured promotion to the Wessex League Premier Division in dramatic fashion on Saturday.
The Rams beat New Milton Town 4-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the play-off final.
Alex Barsa was the hero in the play-off final at New Milton, scoring the goal and the winning penalty to send the Rams back to the top table of the Wessex League for the first time since 2018.
Petersfield opened the scoring after 26 minutes when Connor Hoare passed to Barsa, who took one touch before firing high into the roof of the net.
The Rams had chances to extend their lead and were made to pay for their wastefulness in the 82nd minute when Tyrrell Sampson fired a cracking effort into the far corner on the turn.
Neither side were able to find a winner, and New Milton’s Aaron Scott hit the post with his penalty before Rams keeper Harry Greenfield saved Noel McCarthy-Gardiner’s spot kick.
Barsa stepped up and slotted into the bottom corner to seal Petersfield’s promotion.
“We deserved to win the game and be promoted, and should have won it in 90 minutes,” said Suraci. “Our goal was against the run of play as New Milton were on top for the first 20 minutes. It was a well-weighted pass by Connor and a good finish by Alex.
“We then had a number of good chances in the second half and should really have been two or three up. It shows the mentality and character of the group to have been ahead for so long and be able to bounce back from the disappointment of conceding in the 82nd minute.
“We won on penalties against Fareham in the Wessex League Cup and against Newport in the play-off semi-finals, which held us in good stead.”
Suraci and Joe Lea took over at Love Lane last summer, and promotion wasn’t on their minds.
“Petersfield finished 12th last season, so the aim this season was to improve on that and finish in the top half,” said Suraci.
“We’re ahead of schedule, but I’m confident this group is good enough to compete in the Premier Division next season.”
The Rams will hope to complete the double on Saturday, when they face Premier Division Baffins Milton Rovers in the Wessex League Cup final at AFC Portchester (4pm).
“We’ll go out to try to win the game, but Baffins are a good side in the league above,” said Suraci.
“With promotion secured, there is no pressure on us.”