Ashford make hard work of County Cup progress
Middlesex Senior Cup 1st Round,
|A strong Ashford side came within minutes of elimination from the Middlesex Senior Cup before two goals in stoppage time turned the tie on it’s head and sent the home side through. However, if Ashford had taken some of the chances they had generated earlier in the game the tie would probably have been over as a contest long before that dramatic finish. Leading scorer Scott Harris and Paul Johnson were rested while young defender Guy Hollis was given a second First Team start.
Gavin Smith had the best opportunity of the early moments before Ashford were awarded a twelfth minute penalty. Ricky Wellard took the spot kick, but his strike lacked pace and was gathered up by North Greenford ‘keeper Babacarr Jallow.
Although Andre DeLisser shot wide for the visitors, Byron Harrison and Smith both forced saves from Jallow. Warren Harris and Wellard also narrowly missed the target from distance as Ashford continued to dominate, although United fired a warning just before half time when Liam Bird hit a shot into the side netting. Although Harrison had a final chance before the interval, blazing well over, the scoresheet was blank at half-time.
Four minutes into the second half, United took the lead when they were (perhaps fortuitously) awarded a free kick on the right flank, which was then headed back across goal for DeLisser to sweep the ball into the net.
In the 53rd mnute, an O’Sullivan cross was narrowly headed over by Harrison (pictured). However, the longer the game progressed, the more comfortable North Greenford appeared in defence. Ashford were dominant in possession but increasingly found themselves reliant on long-range shots and set pieces, with Ricky Wellard coming close with a 25-yard shot on the hour and a 73rd minute free-kick.
Scott Todd replaced Wes Goggin after that set-piece and Wellard again tried a long-distance effort that went wide. With six minutes remaining, Harrison headed just over the crossbar and moments later Wellard attempted yet another strike from distance, this time skimming the crossbar with his shot.
As the running watches in the stands reached 90:00, Wellard delivered a free kick from the right-hand touchline into a packed penalty box. To Ashford’s delight, it was Gavin Smith who rose highest, heading powerfully into the net.
That looked to have taken the tie into extra time, but there was to be one final twist in the tale. Three minutes into stoppage time, Ashford had North Greenford pinned back and the ball was slipped wide to Gavin Smith, who cut the ball back across goal for Byron Harrison, who was left with a straightforward finish. The Blues, however, were incensed, with both players and officials adamant that Smith was “three yards offside“. However, Referee Jempaji and his Assistant were both in good positions and waved aware the vociferous complaints, which lasted almost two minutes.
There was no time left for United to attempt to equalise and Ashford will now travel to Hanwell Town in Round Two. However, the Tangerines will need to be sharper in front of goal in that tie if they are to keep alive their challenge for the trophy.