It looked a tricky encounter on paper and home side Epsom & Ewell certainly made it harder for Ashford than many of the teams they have played this season but in the end, the Tangerines came away with a 4-2 victory, taking their chances clinically when the opportunity arose.  There was no doubt as to the Ashford “Man of the Match” in the returning shape of Dan Fleming, who showed how much he had been missed whilst injured, notching his first competitive hatrick for the club, with the ever reliable Mark Bitmead getting the other.

Ashford were still without Elliott Jones so Joe Green made only his second 1st team start at right back, whilst power house Max Webb also returned to the starting line-up.

After a fairly uneventful opening period, Ashford opened the scoring on 15 minutes when Fleming charged down a clearance and re-acted swiftly to neatly plant the ball past the lumbering Michael Eacott in the home goal.  Ashford supporters, present in good numbers, relaxed as the Tangerines seemed to have gained the whip hand but credit to the home side who fought back and equalised on 39 minutes when everyone seemed to stop, leaving Tyler Tobin to race out of his goal but he was never going to make it and a low cross saw Jack Mullan putting the ball into his own net.

Instead of building upon the goal though, Epsom then pressed the suicide button conceding two further goals in the few minutes that remained before half-time.  The first was largely due to a strong run by Conor Moody, on as sub for the injured Rob Curtis.  Two or three attempts to knock him off the ball failed and a perfect ball out wide to Fleming saw the latter slip it across to Bitmead who made no mistake.  From an attacking point of view, it was a quality goal.  Two minutes later it was Fleming once again, who left Eacott floundering, to give Ashford a comfortable two goal cushion at half-time.

Epsom though showed they are made of strong stuff and despite almost conceding again at the re-start, they gradually got on top, and central defenders Russell Canderton and Jack Mullan had to be at their best to stem the tide.  Tobin, superb all afternoon, then had to make the save of the match as Russell Canderton almost emulated his partner in scoring an own goal but eventually the pressure told and with just over 15 minutes left, Epsom’s Ferdinando was first to a cross, glancing the ball home.

Epsom sensed blood but as they pushed forward they were leaving gaps at the back, which was always dangerous given Ashford’s quick fire strikers and Eacott, who had looked very uncertain in the first half, made two flying saves that would otherwise have made the game safe rather earlier for the visitors.

As the game wore on, one sensed that Epsom had given it their best shot but it was still a mighty relief for the Ashford supporters when Fleming hit another quality strike to close the scoring at 4-2 to Ashford.

The pleasure of victory was slightly tarnished right at the death when Conor Moody was though on goal only to be tripped as he went through.  Instead of going down he tried to keep his feet but in going for the ball he caught the keeper who got there just in front of him.  Ashford were amazed to see the referee who otherwise had done well, pull out the red card.  It was very harsh on Moody and with the decision being a free kick to Ashford just outside the box, the visitors were entitled to wonder why the defender who, seconds earlier, had committed the foul, was not red carded himself for preventing a goal scoring opportunity.  At least though, this referee managed to turn up on time, blow the whistle at the right time for half-time and add on an appropriate amount of time at the end, a minute longer incidentally than allowed by last week’s referee at Spelthorne.

News came through that Spelthorne had beaten Cove but all the other challengers won.  Nevertheless Ashford are now just one point behind the Hampshire side, with a match in hand.

There is some fixture news this week.  Firstly the Surrey Senior Cup match away to Woking has been fixed for Tuesday 4 November, which means that the home game against Ash has been put back for a fortnight to Tuesday 18 November.  In the meantime, another busy week looms with the 1st Team playing at home to Spartan S. Midlands side Harefield United on Tuesday evening in the Middlesex Senior Cup.  We lost to them last season in the same competition when two late goals gave them a 2-1 victory after James Awosifan had given us the lead.  Also, there is now a date for the League Cup tie away to Camberley Town, which will be on Tuesday 9 December.

Next Saturday we have a home league match when we will have the pleasure of entertaining Mole Valley SCR for the first time ever in a competitive match.  They have been doing well this season after narrowly avoiding relegation last time round and it is bound to be a difficult encounter but more on that later in the week.

The Under-18’s are also at home this midweek, on Wednesday, when they will play Chertsey Town U18 in a Ryman Youth League match.