BOWERS & Pitsea boss Rob Small hailed his side after recording an eye-catching 3-1 win over table-toppers Folkestone Invicta.

Although Scott Heard gave Folkestone an early lead at the Len Salmon Stadium, a Lewis Manor brace and late Ben Sartain strike allowed Bowers to record three consecutive Isthmian Premier League victories.

And Small believes his newly-promoted outfit, who are enjoying their first ever campaign in the third tier of non-league football, have come a long way in recent weeks.

“Folkestone are excellent and their midfield players have unbelievable quality,” said Small.

“Their front three are devastating on the counter-attack and that was one of the toughest games I’ve been involved in.

“Our players deserve so much credit. The work ethic, desire and understanding of what was required could not be questioned and they also showed great character.

“We went 1-0 down after five minutes against a team that were unbelievably good. Eight weeks ago, we would have been beaten after five minutes – that’s the truth.

“But we believed in ourselves and knew we were capable of sticking in there.

“We were exceptional, particularly in the second half, and I’m absolutely delighted.”

Bowers went behind inside five minutes as Heard fired home after Folkestone pounced on a Callum Leahy error.

And Small was pleased to see Leahy, who featured at the heart of Bowers’ back four, recover from the mistake.

“Callum deserves a lot of credit because he made a bad mistake for the goal,” admitted Small.

“I have to take responsibility for that because I’m asking him, at the age of 28, to play at centre-half in a division that is much more intense than it was last season when he has played as a midfielder for 20 years.

“I have to stick with him and understand that, in the short-term, there is going to be some pain but I believe he will make that position his own.

“With every mistake he makes, he will become a better player because he will learn.

“He was phenomenal for the rest of the match and there are green shoots there to show what he is capable of.”

Manor nodded home the rebound after Brad Warner had been frustrated by the crossbar midway through the first half.

And captain Manor put Bowers ahead with another header before Sartain struck in injury time.