Ashford too strong for Woods
Evo-Stik League Southern, Division One Central
Ashford Town’s season got properly underway as they bounced back from an opening day defeat to secure a well-deserved victory. Paul Burgess made two changes from the side beaten at home by Rugby, Dan Brown replacing Joe Bennett and Perry Luckins coming in for Alex Duffy. Sadly for young Perry, his fourth First Team start lasted just 12 minutes before a facial injury forced him off the field. Thankfully, the injury does not seem to be serious.
At the beginning of last season, an Ashford side reduced to ten men won at home to Northwood in a dramatic fashion, while at the end of that campaign, the two clubs competed in a Cup Final won by Ashford on penalties after a 4-4 draw in which the Tangerines rallied from 0-3 to lead with minutes to play. While yet another meeting of these clubs was, perhaps, inevitable so it seemed certain that there was no way it could match up to some of the previous meetings.
It was therefore little surprise that the first half was largely dull, to the point where one of the major talking points among the travelling support was the fact that three out of the four corner flags were lying on the ground, rather than standing upright. It was curious, given the fastidiousness of referee Mellor in other areas, that no effort was made at any stage to rectify this, other than Jim Mann driving the flag nearest the Ashford bench into the ground early in the second half.
During the opening half, Ashford looked comfortable in possession, but were unable to test goalkeeper James Reading, whereas on their sorties forward, Northwood forced two saves from Paul McCarthy
Ashford started the second half playing positively, with Dan Brown causing the Woods problems throughout Northwood enjoyed good spells of their own, with Oliver Hawkins blasting wide in the 59th minute. Within seconds, the home side had made a double substitution, which injected pace into their game and opened up the match.Mark Bitmead fizzed a shot wide before Adamson Ajayi missed when it looked easier to score.
Inspired by this let-off, Ashford regained a measure of control, with Dan Brown going close to scoring before the breakthrough was made in the 71st minute. A wicked corner from Alex Duffy caused chaos in Rugby’s six yard box and Bairoh Conteh headed home for his first senior goal.
With Bitmead causing havoc down the right, it was fitting that the second goal would involve him. With ten minutes remaining, the winger raced into the penalty area, only to be unceremoniously brought down. A penalty was awarded and Bitmead took it himself, sending Reading the wrong way. It was his last meaningful act of the game, Samad Kazu replacing him.
Northwood had the occasional chance of their own and a 25 yard shot from Ajayi drew a fine save, The Woods scored a good goal of their own in the first minute of stoppage time, when Romaine Walker passed three defenders and crossed the ball for Spencer Bellotti to score.
However, any nerves the healthy contingent of travelling officials and supporters were feeling were settled within seconds as Ashford swept upfield, with Dan Brown teeing upSamad Kazi to score a fine goal to settle the match.
There will have been much in this performance to encourage Paul Burgess – there were good spells of play and the goals were finished emphatically. However, there can be no complacency ahead of the FA Cuo tie with Tring Athletic.