Ashford lost at home to league leaders Royston Town on Tuesday evening by 4 goals to 1.
On the evidence of this display there seems little doubt that Royston will take some shifting from the top of the league, looking far more convincing than when Ashford played at Royston a month or so back. In fact Ashford did not play badly at all, taking an early lead and all the players gave their all. Royston were just too good on the night over 90 minutes as they have been for many clubs this season.
The match though started with a bang for the Tangerines as Bayley Mummery picked up the ball widish right and hit a wicked high dipping volley from distance into the net which left the Royston keeper stranded, on just 58 seconds to be precise.
At that early stage Royston looked ragged and when Dan Fleming hit a tremendous effort quite soon afterwards which rebounded from the bar with force, one started to wonder if it was going to be one of those special Ashford evenings we have experienced so often in the past. Sadly this turned out not be the case as their excellent opponents got themselves into the match and equalised on 13 minutes when a corner kick came in and, under great pressure Max Webb was only able to turn the ball into his own net.
This cranked up the pressure on the Tangerines and the match turned just four minutes later when Royston’s Kaan Fhemi took full advantage of an unfortunate slip by Tyler Tobin, to slide the ball home.
Ashford remained spirited but the visitors were now looking very strong and it was not a great surprise, when they increased their lead on 31 minutes thanks to a fearsome strike from Danny May that no keeper could have stopped.
There was no further scoring before the break and, despite a penalty awarded to Royston for handball which was blazed miles over the bar, Ashford did their best to retrieve the situation. Despite a period of far better possession, they were unable to make a further impression on the visiting defence though and it was definitely game over when Royston scored their fourth on 67 minutes, substitute John Frendo finishing off an impressive move.
The match rather fizzled out after that with Royston knowing the game was won and Ashford having lost the intensity of their earlier play.
The Tangerines now go on to entertain Petersfield Town on Saturday and it is rather odd in that we play the top team one night and then the team at the foot of the table in the next match. Nobody though will be under-estimating our visitors, as although we managed to win at their ground, they made life tough enough for us and they have certainly not generally been losing by large margins. It will be the first ever visit to Short Lane by Petersfield and we shall look forward to welcoming them.
There are one or two milestones to report: Max Webb has now played in over 150 competitive matches for the club, whilst Will Boye has passed the 50 mark after joining us last season. Tommy Brunton has now made in excess of 150 starts for the 1st Team and Scott Weight now needs to play in nine more matches to record his 300th appearance. We currently have nine regular 1st Team players who have started more than 100 competitive matches for the club, which is impressive stuff especially as the majority are still under 25 years of age.
Ashford secured all three points at Uxbridge on Saturday, winning by two goals to nil, to record their second “double” of the season.
It was a full blooded affair at times and Ashford were furious when Max Herbert received the first card of the match for a comparatively gentle push, after three late tackles from the home side had left Ashford players needing treatment. Lest the writer be accused of being blinkered, the Tangerines also had cause to be grateful for some lenient refereeing in the second half when tackles from Tommy Brunton and Samad Kazi could, on another day, have seen them enjoying an early bath.
There was plenty of good attacking football as well with ex-Ashford keeper Paul McCarthy in good form between the sticks for Uxbridge, pushing away determined efforts from the likes of Max Webb and Dan Fleming. Tyler Tobin was in equally imperious form for the Tangerines but on balance he had less to do. It remained goalless at the break though.
It was fairly clear that the opening goal would be significant and it did not take too long for Ashford to achieve this, just six minutes into the re-start. A free kick from the rejuvenated Mark Bitmead was too well placed for McCarthy to hold and as it went loose Romario Jonas was the first to react to put the ball in the net.
That was the key for a determined fight back from the home side and Ashford’s seeming insistence upon conceding silly fouls in dangerous areas did not help. However, a combination of poor finishing and determined defensive work ensured that there was no breakthrough and in the 66th minute Ashford effectively made the game safe with the second goal, when a deft through ball from Fleming saw Bitmead doing what he does best, slipping the ball past McCarthy with aplomb.
Ashford defended reasonably comfortably after that and might even have scored one or two more themselves. The final score though was satisfying as it meant a clean sheet and the third win from the last four matches. Max Webb’s non-stop running and determination saw him voted the “Ashford man of the match” by supporters, but nobody did badly and the lightning pace of Eli Ogunseye provided more than one “wow” moment.
The recent form has completely dispelled some of the gloom that had started to creep in and Ashford will now go into the home match on Tuesday against champions elect, Royston Town, in excellent spirits, which they will need against arguably the best side in the division. Our opponents have suffered only one defeat since the turn of the year, against Kidlington and are now sitting fairly comfortably at the top of the table with a five point and two match advantage over nearest rivals Farnborough. It was only a few weeks ago though that we gave them a very close game up at Royston. The match kicks off at 7.45 pm at Short Lane.
A big well done goes to the Under-13’s who made it to their County Cup final on Sunday morning and also to Larry’s juniors who also won their semi-final. There will hopefully be some more details on these matches later in the week. Also the Ladies made it through to the semi-final of the Capital Women’s Cup with a 4-2 win over AFC Phoenix Res. The scorers were Laura Huse (2), Beth Sheehan and Charmaine Benham. We also understand that Ashley Cheatley, recently departed to Millwall Lionesses in the Women’s Premier League scored her first goal for them today in a 3-1 win over Nottingham Forest in the SSE Women’s FA Cup.
Following their confidence boosting 6 goal haul on Tuesday, Ashford should make the short trip to Uxbridge FC in good heart on Saturday.
Uxbridge are just one point behind the Tangerines, although Ashford have a game in hand and it looks like a tight match, although whether it can match the ten goals in Uxbridge’s last match when they lost 4-6 to Egham remains to be seen. The biggest positive for Ashford is probably the return to goal scoring form of both Mark Bitmead and Dan Fleming, the latter now with 4 goals in the last two matches. Ashford will though have to be on their guard against Uxbridge’s Matthew Woods who scored a hatrick in the defeat against Egham and has 16 league goals to his name this season
The address of the ground is Horton Road, West Drayton, UB7 8HX and there is a large car park. The journey, ground to ground, should not take more than 20 minutes at the most.
As always, there is a whole host of junior matches on Sunday and here they are:
Ashford Sports Club - Club House 11-a-side Pitch
Martin U15s v Epsom & Ewell 10am
Simon U16s v Lyne Lions 11:30am
Ashford Sports Club – Short Lane 11-a-side Pitch
Fin U14s v Esher Colts 10am
Ben U16s v Old Coulsdon 11:30
Ashford Town 5 – 5 Pitch 1
Chris U8s v Cass U8s 10am
Neil U8s v Esher Wizards 11am
Ashford Town 5 – 5 Pitch 2
Steve U8s v Staines Town 10am
Bill U8s v Met Police 11am
Ashford Town 9 – 9 Pitch
Joe U12s v Motspur Park 10am
Graham U11s v Nelson U11s 11am
Ashford Town – Outfield
Craig U15s v Kew Park Rangers 12:30
Larry U13s v Old Coulsdon
John U13s v Motspur Park
Paul U13s v Ruislip (county cup)
Conor U16s v Met Police
Once again we wish good luck to Paul’s Under-13’s who make another attempt to play their County Cup semi-final away to Ruislip
Ashford Ladies made light of the loss of Ashley Cheatley to Millwall Lionesses and scored 13 without reply last Sunday as they beat Putney Vale Ladies. On Sunday it’s back to Cup action as the girls take on AFC Phoenix Reserves in the quarter-final of the Capital Women’s Cup. Unusually kick-off is at 11.00 a.m. at Clapham Common and you can read more on the Ladies own website.
The men’s social side have not enjoyed a positive season but will have another go on Sunday when they play away to Bedfont Sports, kicking off at 10.30 a.m.