An unusually ill-disciplined Spelthorne side, who saw two players sent off and a member of the Management team removed from the bench, held on to share the points with Ashford in a one-one draw.

There was little hint of what was to come as both teams tested each other out in the early stages, with little to choose between them.  An early goal might have changed things but whilst Ashford created some good opportunities, the final effort was always either wide, or more frequently, lacked power.  Spelthorne also looked less than penetrative although they certainly came closest when one effort had to be cleared from the line.

In a match that had barely seen a foul to that point, Spelthorne’s leading scorer, Lee Staples then launched himself into what appeared to be a double footed tackle on Rob Curtis.  There was probably no desire other than to win the ball back but any tackle of that nature is always likely to receive the ultimate punishment, and it did on this occasion, with referee Farrer quick to brandish the red card.

The match proceeded to half-time without further incident but the home tactics rather dictated the course of the game after that.  Spelthorne had clearly decided that a point would do in the circumstances and that defence was their best tactic.  They proceeded to crowd their penalty area with players, launching long balls when they could to just one up front, and he was a tricky customer at times, keeping Ashford busy whenever he did manage to secure the ball, until surprisingly he was later taken off, although substitute Flatman continued in the same vein.

Then, on a rare foray Spelthorne took the lead.  A corner was swung in and ex-Ashford player Perry Luckins inexplicably found himself in acres of space and gave Tyler Tobin no chance with a powerful header.  Spelthorne sensed that their tactics were working and intensified them as Ashford probably had anything up to 95% of the possession but simply could not find a way through.

Frustration was setting in but eventually the pressure did tell and it was “goal a game” skipper Russell Canderton, who levelled things up with an identical bullet header to that of Luckins.  Soon after that we had some more fireworks when Luckins, almost inevitably, knowing his temperament, was sent off after incurring a second caution.

That effectively reduced the match to something of a farce although the home side will doubtless point to the point achieved as justification for their tactics.  They defended well, very well in fact, but the time wasting that went with their efforts was extreme and whilst Mr. Farrer made a good start in that respect by cautioning the keeper, he seemed to lose interest after that, generally turning his back on so many situations where the ball was quite deliberately booted away to waste every second possible.

Ashford mounted wave after wave of attacks but simply could not make their efforts tell, the nearest effort coming from sub Dan Fleming, whose overhead kick went just wide.  Spelthorne could have rubbed what would have been some salt into the wounds when another player put a header over the bar when he should have scored.

Mr. Farrer had clearly had enough and blew his whistle with less than three minutes added on, leaving Ashford to reflect upon probably their worst performance of the season overall.  It needs though to be put in perspective!  Ten wins and one draw from eleven matches, with the away draw coming against one of their championship rivals is no mean feat.  It must not be allowed to de-rail what has so far been one of Ashford’s best seasons for many years and let there not be too much criticism of this excellent squad for one hiccup.

We move on and in a little spell of away matches, Ashford go to Chessington & Hook United on Tuesday in the 2nd Round of the Southern Combination Challenge Cup, to see who will travel to CB Hounslow in the quarter-finals.

Chessington are currently bottom of Division One but knocked Spelthorne out of this competition and have played fewer league matches than many of their immediate rivals and it is without doubt a false placing.  Ben Murray will doubtless rotate his squad to an extent for the game which kicks off at 7.45 at Chessington’s ground, Chalky Lane, Chessington, KT9 2NF.  The next league match comes on Saturday when Ashford travel to meet Epsom & Ewell, at their adopted home of Chipstead FC.