KEEPER Nathan Ashmore was there when it mattered for Gosport Borough as they booked their place in Blue Square Bet South next season.
The shot-stopper played a key role in the Privett Park side’s dramatic Southern League premier division play-off final victory at Hemel Hempstead, saving a penalty in the 5-4 shootout win over their hosts.
But at one point Borough boss Alex Pike wondered whether his No1 was even going to be available for the clash that would ultimately seal the club’s second promotion in two years.
The travelling Borough squad had to sit nervously as they waited for their first-choice goalkeeper to arrive at their pick-up point for the match yesterday morning.
And it took an agonising 15 minutes for Ashmore to calm everyone’s nerves as he eventually turned up to ensure Borough could get on their way.
The 23-year-old now risks a club fine from Pike for his time-keeping, which also made him late for the semi-final win over Stourbridge.
But after playing a key role in the club’s second successive promotion via the play-offs – saving Matt Nolan’s penalty – he hopes that will be the last thing on the manager’s mind.
‘I must put my hands up, I was late for the team bus yesterday morning,’ admitted Ashmore.
‘But hopefully I’ve done enough in the match to stop the manager fining me.
‘I was just as late before we went up to Stourbridge, too, but I haven’t heard anything about him fining me for that. Again, I had a good game up there as well.
‘The penalty save in the shootout was just instinct. I had a feeling he (Nolan) was going to go that way with the ball, and, fortunately enough, I got a good hand on it.
‘For me, the best side won the match.
‘We were terrific in the first half, but Hemel gave us a second-half battering towards the end.’
Ashmore – who had a bottle thrown at him by the home section during yesterday’s final – now faces the possibility of lining up against former side, the Hawks, when the 2013-14 Blue Square Bet South season starts in September.
That promises to be a tasty affair and will no doubt be the first fixture representatives from both clubs will look out for when the new schedule is released.
Before then, though, Ashmore has the small matter of sorting out his future after being linked with a move Down Under to Victorian Premier League side Oakleigh Cannons in March.
The possibility of the keeper moving to Australia forced Pike to check on the availability of former Pompey and England goalkeeper David James before he moved to Hermann Hreidarsson’s IBV side in Iceland.
However, after enjoying Borough’s rise to the sixth tier of English football, Ashmore has revealed he has no intention of going anywhere.
He said: ‘Yesterday was the best day of my life and has really changed my mind about going to Australia.
‘So, if Borough want me, I’ll be at this club again this season.’