Ashford’s early blast subdues Sutton
Ryman League Premier Division
There are certain matches that are memorable for more than just the end result and for Ashford Town, this absorbing victory will go down in the club’s history as one of them. As a symbol of just how far the Ash Trees have progressed in a relatively short time, this thrilling win is a potent testimony in just how far hard work can take you.
The first meeting of these two clubs was a Surrey Senior Cup tie in January 1991. Ashford had only become a senior club the previous summer, while Sutton were members of non-league football’s top flight and would end the season as winners of the Conference League Cup. That Ashford should be competing at the same level is one thing, to have gone above their illustrious hosts in the League Table as a result of their win quite another. That they did was largely down to Ashford ‘keeper Paul Burgess, who played in that Cup-tie and put in a vintage display to help his side to the win.
The home side hadn’t played for over a fortnight going into this match and Ashford capitalised on that by sweeping into a 3-0 lead within nineteen minutes. The Tangerines opened the scoring with their first attack, in the seventh minute, when Scott Harris volleyed in a corner taken by younger brother Warren.
The visitors then used the long throws of Guy Hollis to add a further two goals in four minutes. The first, in the fifteenth minute, saw Scott Harris beat Kevin Scriven with a diving header, while in the nineteenth minute, Adam Logie was the man heading home, although he also sustained an injury in the process.
United pulled a goal back just two minutes later when Hollis was harshly adjudged to have handled in the penalty area, Alan Poulton dispatching the penalty beyond Paul Burgess.
Ashford were undeterred, hitting their hosts on the break in the 29th minute, Byron Harrison heading wide with Scriven struggling to get to him. However, Sutton were also looking dangerous, with Sam Gargan hitting the post and Billy Hawes firing over. The home bench then had their moment in the spotlight, with someone being shown a yellow card and soon after, manager Paul Doswell being given a lengthy ticking-off by referee Wright. Jamie Lawrence in the other technical area was much more serene, and remained so as his team ended the first half 3-1 ahead.
Two minutes into the second period, Ashford added their fourth goal and, like the others, it came from a set-piece. This time, it was a Scott Weight free-kick from the left that was met by the head of Brian Haule.
That lit the yellow touch paper for the hosts, whose chocolate and amber kit appears to have gone the way of their neighbours Carshalton’s maroon strip, and Sutton launched an onslaught upon the Ashford goal. This began with a triple substitution, with Poulton, Gargan and Frazer making way for Francis Quarm, Matt Hann and Steve Watts. The canaryesque homesters laid siege to the Ashford goal but were denied by a combination of solid defending and fine goalkeeping from Burgess.
Sutton kept surging forward and eventually pulled a goal back with thirteen minutes remaining when Steve Watts belted a free-kick from thirty-five yards beyond Burgess for 4-2. That led to a new wave of attacks, all of which were repelled by Burgess to the point where the side who came closest to scoring in the remaining minutes was Ashford, who might have scored a fifth in the final minute. A free-kick from Jamie Lawrence, who had replaced Jermaine McGlashan, was headed beyond Scriven by Scott Harris, only for Warren Harris to lash his shot against the bar. However, the 4-2 win was just reward for a hard working performance from the visitors.