WILL Croker revealed he had not doubted Bournemouth would hold their nerve to record a tense comeback victory over Cleve.

Lions went into the break trailing 12-5 to their South West Premier rivals at Chapel Gate.

But an early second-half score from Freddie Gleadowe coupled with a Grant Hancox penalty saw the hosts secure a crucial 13-12 triumph.

Asked what had been spoken about at the interval, the head coach told the Daily Echo: “I said to them ‘look, I don’t for a moment question that we are going to win this game’. I knew we were going to win.

“We flew out the blocks in the second half and scored a try within two minutes of the restart.

“In the second half, our possession and territory was significantly superior. We worked hard to get into position, won a penalty and Grant did what he does.”

Visitors Cleve took the lead when wing Brad Kislingbury touched down in the corner. Luca Firetto drove over to level the contest up at 5-5 after 15 minutes.

A converted try then put the visitors in the box seat before Lions rallied after half-time to record their 12th league win of the campaign.

Croker added: “Cleve were a good team, they narrowly beat us at their place and we knew they would be physical and combative. If anything they were even more organised. I thought their defence was one of the best we have played against.

“It was difficult for us to get too much traction out wide and it became a very direct game.”

With Hancox’s penalty proving the decisive factor, Croker saluted the determination of his place-kicker, who overcame both injury and tricky conditions to fire over from 35 metres out.

“It was a very difficult kick anyway but he was suffering from a dead leg and was right in the middle of the boggiest part of the pitch,” the Lions boss added.

“It would have been very easy for his standing foot to have gone but it was a lovely strike.

“I think the key thing for us was getting the win. A day like that was a really easy day to slip up – if you’ll excuse the pun!

“It just put more distance between us and Cleve.”

Stand-in fly-half Hancox’s crucial kick also extended his own league record to 101 penalty goals for Bournemouth

Second-placed Lions are 11 points adrift of league leaders Dings Crusaders but have the opportunity to reduce the deficit on Saturday when they make the trip to Lockleaze (2pm).

And Croker insists his troops are thriving on being one of the division’s promotion hopefuls.

“Winning is a habit and it feels good,” he added.

“We have only lost once since the beginning of October, which naturally breeds a winning mentality and a nice feeling.

“It’s something the players are thriving on. They are enjoying an increase in people watching and an increase in the exposure social media is giving us.

“We have to nourish and treasure it and make sure on Saturday we turn up with the same mentality.

“If we can go there, do a job on them and maybe pick up a bonus point as well, then all of a sudden it is all to play for.”

Bournemouth’s next home game is against Exmouth on Saturday, February 3.

Lions: Sutherland, Davis, Gleadowe, Chislett, Everett-Bolter, Hancox, Hardcastle, Napier, Manning, Firetto, MacDonald, Hennings, Sharp, Bennett, Rees. Substitutes: Fraser, Stewart, Treloar.