Gareth Heath aiming to wrap up league title with Leiston
HAVING experienced the heartache of missing a penalty in a Ryman League Division One North play-off final, automatic promotion for Leiston’s Gareth Heath at Maldon & Tiptree Town today would be the perfect tonic.
The prolific midfielder missed from 12 yards for AFC Sudbury in a penalty shoot-out against Harlow five years ago and while the 31-year-old insists he has moved on from that low point, the prospect of avoiding the lottery of the play-offs is one that he relishes.
Leiston will make history and reach their highest-ever level with victory in Essex, the Blues being seven points ahead of second-placed Enfield with just three games remaining.
“The play-offs all of a sudden bring two extra games and that is when you really start to feel the pressure,” said Heath, who scored 28 goals as the Blues won the Ridgeons Premier title last season.
“I missed a penalty in the play-off final for Sudbury, when Mark Morsley (current Leiston boss) was the manager.
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“That was a massive disappointment as the club had always wanted to achieve promotion and had worked hard to get to that level.
“It was not our day and I felt that I had let everybody down being the penalty taker, I don’t dwell on what happened, but it would be great to win automatic promotion.”
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Manager Morsley has just Patrick Brothers injured ahead of what Heath has described as one of the biggest games of his career.
However, while pressure goes hand in hand with such a game, the midfielder believes the Blues’ squad can cope with what is set to be thrown at them.
“There have been a couple of important cup games for the club and last weekend, the Needham game was one of the biggest in the club’s history,” he said.
“The squad has a lot of experience and I think that will help us relax.
“Being in a similar situation in the Ridgeons League last year when we had a points cushion will help and it’s also vital that we have kept the nucleus of last season’s squad too.
“We stick together and have a great team spirit at the club.”