Ashton Leigh makes winning Gosport Borough debut as late goal keeps Southern League Premier South play-off hopes alive

Ashton Leigh made a winning debut for Gosport Borough as they kept alive their Southern League Premier South play-off hopes.

By Simon Carter
Sunday, 20th March 2022, 1:47 pm
Matt Briggs, second left, celebrates his late Gosport winner at Merthyr. Picture by Tom Phillips
Matt Briggs, second left, celebrates his late Gosport winner at Merthyr. Picture by Tom Phillips

The versatile Leigh has signed for another step 3 club after being released by Bognor Regis at the start of this month.

He had to wait for his Boro debut, though, due to the fact he was serving a suspension after being dismissed in his last Rocks outing at Folkestone on February 26.

The former Horndean and Baffins Milton Rovers man lasted 65 minutes in a dramatic 2-1 victory at lowly Merthyr Town before going off with a tight calf.

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Ashton Leigh on his Gosport debut at Merthyr. Picture by Tom Phillips

Leigh played in a role just off central striker Matt Paterson in a new-look Boro formation where boss Shaun Gale deployed three centre halves in Luke Hallett, Matt Briggs and Ryan Woodford.

Ashton rang me a few week ago to say he was leaving Bognor and would I be interested,’ explained Gale. ‘Of course I was interested - Ashton’s an extra body, we haven’t got bundles of players.

‘He’s experienced at this level, even though he’s a young lad, he’s got a good left foot and he can play in numerous positions - left back, centre half, midfield.’

Leigh is a squad replacement for Mason Walsh, who has returned to America.

Matt Paterson celebrates scoring for Gosport at Merthyr. Picture by Tom Phillips

Briggs’ late winner - heading in after Luke Hallett had nodded a recycled corner back across the penalty area - provided Gosport with realistically the only result they needed to keep alive play-off hopes.

They are now just three points behind Chesham, who occupy the last play-off place in fifth place, with six matches remaining. And Gosport still have to visit Chesham.

Of greater concern is the fact that both Weston-super-Mare and Yate remain above eighth-placed Boro with one and three games in hand respectively.

‘It was a professional, hard-working performance,’ Gale stated of the victory in south Wales against the second-bottom Martyrs.

Matthew Paterson volleys Gosport ahead at Merthyr. Picture by Tom Phillips

‘I told the players beforehand, it wasn’t a case of how you win, it was a case of we must win - but the performance was good from us. I know we scored late but it would have been a travesty if we hadn’t won. They only had one shot and scored from it.’

Boro travelled light in numbers with top scorer Dan Wooden and Dulwich loanee AJ Harris-Sealy injured and Ryan Pennery and Matt Casey ill.

They went ahead on 39 minutes through a superb goal from Paterson, volleying in from the edge of the penalty area.

Merthyr levelled just after the hour mark through Curtis Jemmett-Hutson before Briggs nodded in his first league goal since early September.

Brad Tarbuck on the ball for Gosport at Merthyr. Picture by Tom Phillips

The game was held up for around 10 minutes in the second half following a collision between Boro pair Rory Williams and Harvey Rew.

Williams was forced off with a swollen jaw while Rew carried on, complete with a bandaged head.

Next up for Gosport is a home clash with Taunton Town, who have won 13 of their last 15 league fixtures and who would go top if they won their game in hand.

Matt Paterson in action for Gosport at Merthyr. Picture by Tom Phillips
Billie Busari came on in the second half for Gosport at Merthyr. Picture by Tom Phillips