Ashford make further League Cup progress
Isthmian League Cup Third Round,
Ashford emerged from this cracking cup tie with a victory that ensured they will travel to Redbridge in the last 16 of this tournament. Both sides made changes from their weekend line-ups, with Kingstonian fielding former Ashford favourite Anthony Joseph in their side. For his part, Mark Butler gave a full debut to youth team prospect Danny Byron as well as a second start for young Jimmy Stanford up front. Craig Ross took over from Paul Burgess in goal but Ashford’s injury problems prevented the Tangerines from making wholesale changes.
Ashford started the game strongly but didn’t test visiting stopper Luke Naughton in the early stages. However, the Ks ‘keeper did have to pick the ball out of his net in the 22nd minute when Stanford spotted him off his goal line and curled the ball around him from an outlandish angle thirty yards from goal and out on the left flank. It would be easy to disclaim the strike as a “fluke” or an overhit cross, but this is the third time your correspondent has witness Stanford score from similar positions this season. He definitely meant it!
Kingstonian did not lose heart despite falling behind and enjoyed a dominant spell of possession. However, they did not test Craig Ross during this period, with their best effort being a shot from Craig Mullin that went wide. Mullin also registered his side’s first shot on target, in the final minute of the first half. The lively striker found himself in a one-on-one with Craig Ross, who saved well to preserve his side’s lead.
The Surrey side made a change at the break, replacing Julien Thompson with Daniel Morris. The game remained end-to-end, with Mullin again firing wide, then Stanford firing over for Ashford. Gavin Smith was replaced by Jon Palmer in the 52nd minute but it was the visitors who looked likelier to score, with Rob Sheridan and the ubiquitous Mullin both having changes to equalise.
Stanford again warmed Naughton’s gloves from 30 yards in the 67th minute but it was Ks who were the better side and the equalised with twenty minutes remaining. Scott Todd had caused the Surrey side some problems but his sloppy pass created issues for his own side. The Division One South leaders caught Ashford on the counter attack and left Mullin a straightforward finish.
Morris had the Ashford defence stretched in the 77th minute, but a superb challenge from Billy Jeffreys averted the danger, while Mullin was stopped in his tracks by Vinnie O’Sullivan. However, it was Ashford who finished the match the stronger with Scott Weight endangering passing aircraft with one shot, while a slightly lower effort by Ricky Wellard forced a stoppage time save from Naughton. Wellard had only been on the pitch a couple of minutes, having replaced Danny Byron while Todd was withdrawn and replaced by Warren Harris.
The raucous crowd entertained themselves throughout the first period of extra time as the match endured something of a lull. Neither side managed a shot on target during this period although play continued to flow from end to end.
The second period was better and Billy Jeffreys almost scored his first goal for Ashford with a 108th minute header, which was deflected wide. The subsequent corner was half cleared as far as Brett Cooper, who smashed a stunning 25 yard effort across Naughton’s goal and into the top right-hand corner.
Kingstonian then made their final substitution, replacing the injured Anthony Joseph with back-up goalkeeper Adrian Blake as their other named substitute had not arrived. Both sides continued to attack with gusto, with Neil Lampton forcing a reaction save from Ross before Warren Harris had a chance to wrap up the win in a one-on-one, only for Naughton to save well. There were no further goals, though and Ashford move into the Fourth Round of the tournament they won in 2007.