Bennett never considered leaving Gosport Borough amid transfer talk

Gosport Borough striker Justin Bennett

Gosport Borough striker Justin Bennett

Lee Bradbury has led the Hawks to the Ryman League premier division title and promotion to National League South. Picture: Mick Young

Hawks clinch promotion as Borough are relegated

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Justin Bennett revealed he never considered leaving Gosport Borough for the Hawks.

Borough’s record goalscorer was the subject of a £12,500 bid from the Westleigh Park outfit shortly after Gosport’s attempt to re-sign Matt Paterson failed.

I’ve been at Gosport long enough now to know that I enjoy my football here and wanted to stay

Justin Bennett

The duo struck up a prolific partnership last season at Privett Park, and both clubs were apparently keen to restore the combination.

But despite knowing that he could have improved his earnings considerably with a move, Bennett agreed an improved deal with boss Alex Pike and has now signed a contract extension until at least 2018.

Bennett said: ‘I was a bit surprised when the bid came in.

‘Initially, I just thought they were trying to get back at Pikey for putting in a bid for Pato (Paterson) so I didn’t pay much attention to it.

‘I never wanted to leave Gosport so I didn’t give it much thought.

‘People were saying to me about the sort of money that I could earn there and you always consider that.

‘But I’ve been at Gosport long enough now to know that I enjoy my football here and wanted to stay.

‘It was a bit up in the air with the speculation.

‘But it’s nice to know that they still appreciate my services at Gosport. Now I need to repay that faith and keep scoring goals for the next few years.’

Bennett scored 34 goals in all competitions last season and has already raced to 18 goals this term, although he is suspended for tomorrow’s home showdown with Hemel Hempstead in Vanarama National League South.

The 33-year-old is the club’s record goalscorer with 248 goals and admitted he made the first move in opening discussions over a new deal.

He said: ‘I’d already mentioned a few weeks before that I was keen to discuss a new contract. So it seemed like a good time to talk about it when the bids came in.

‘I didn’t want to cause an issue but I felt I probably did deserve an improved deal so I’m delighted.

‘It’s just nice to get it settled so I can concentrate on my football.’

Pike, meanwhile, had no issues in rewarding his striker with an improved deal and is confident that Bennett will continue to be his most prolific marksman.

The Borough boss said: ‘Justin told us he didn’t want the speculation and wanted to stay and we were happy to discuss it with him.

‘He’s like a good bottle of red wine – he gets better with age.

‘I haven’t seen any evidence of him slowing down. He can play on for a good few years yet.’

The Borough squad is hit by suspensions for the home clash with a team just one point below them in the table, with Bennett, Dan Wooden, Rory Williams and Brett Poate all sidelined.

But Andy Robinson came through 20 minutes of the midweek win over Portchester in the Portsmouth Senior Cup and is back in the squad, while youngsters Callum Cunliffe and Charlie Higgins are set to step up from the development squad.

GOSPORT: Ashmore, Cuthbertson, Brice, Woodford, Wheeler, Carter, Dunford, Ramsey, Wilde, Barker, Wort, Vine, Gerrard, Robinson, Cunliffe, Higgins

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