WILL Croker insisted he had not doubted Grant Hancox’s ability to slot home Bournemouth’s match-winning kick against Maidenhead – and had not realised it would be the final play of the game.

The sides were deadlocked before Lions were awarded a last-gasp penalty at Chapel Gate, which the fly-half coolly sent over to earn a crucial 24-21 victory.

Croker admitted he had thought four minutes remained after glancing at the scoreboard – which had earlier suffered a malfunction.

But when the realisation of success over their play-off rivals sunk in, the head coach could not help expressing his delight.

He told the Daily Echo: “Often with last-minute kicks at goal everything is twitching and you worry like mad you might not get it.

“But Grant strikes the ball so well and from in front of the posts it was something I never questioned.

“What was more surprising was the clock on the scoreboard was still showing four minutes left. I hadn’t realised it had actually stalled for four minutes in the middle of the second half.

“As Grant kicked the ball through the posts Jon Sanchez, who had run the kicking tee on, was jumping around like a lunatic! I thought ‘what on earth is he doing? We’ve just kicked a penalty but there are four minutes left. That’s a bit premature isn’t it?’

“Then the referee blew his whistle and this enormous roar erupted. It suddenly dawned on me we had won and it was another tick in the box.

“We are now in the situation where there are three league games remaining and 11 points guarantees us the play-off spot.”

In a pulsating South West Premier encounter, Bournemouth flew out of the blocks to surge into a 21-0 lead.

Scrum-half Sam Hardcastle touched down during the opening exchanges before Alan Manning and Dan Stewart crossed, all three scores converted by Hancox.

Back came Maidenhead before the interval when William Macaulay and Scott Prince recorded tries and Edward Keohane stepped up to add the extras on both occasions.

Bournemouth’s seven-point advantage was wiped out three minutes into the second half when visiting hooker Mark Darlington powered over to set up a tense finale.

After absorbing immense pressure, the hosts took their opportunity when Hancox held his nerve to record the all-important three points and increase Lions’ chances of securing second spot.

Croker also revealed he had exchanged pleasantries with former England international and World Cup winner Will Greenwood, who aids Maidenhead’s coaching staff.

“He said our first half was the best rugby he had ever seen at this level,” added the Bournemouth boss.

“He made me laugh, he said ‘make sure you win your next three games because we are going to win ours!’

“The first 25 minutes was as good as I have coached since I have been at Bournemouth.

"The speed, accuracy and tempo they could not live with.

“They had attack after attack in the second half and were held up over the try line twice. That was what won us the game – the heart, grit and resolve to make sure they were not crossing.”

Bournemouth on Saturday have the chance to claim silverware when they visit London One South side Havant in the Hampshire Senior Cup final (1pm).

Lions: Sutherland, Stewart, Everett-Bolter, Chislett, Kirkpatrick, Hancox, Hardcastle, Napier, Manning, Firetto, MacDonald, Hennings, Sharp, Bennett, Rees. Replacements: Carkeet, Roberts, Spiller.