A match that had just about everything saw Ashford put their recent indifferent form behind them as they won by four goals to three at league leaders Cove, leading 4-1 at one stage, only for Cove to stage a fight back that almost saw them snatch a point.

Yet again a very young referee was in charge but his inexperience showed.  One or two abysmal failures to play advantage let him (and both sides) down and a bizarre refusal to award Ashford a blatant penalty which, if scored, would have put the visitors 5-1 up, led to an incident which eventually saw the Cove keeper sent off, and a totally unwarranted caution for Dan Fleming.  It was disappointing that a match between 1st and 2nd in the League did not warrant a more experienced official.

Ashford made a stirring start to the game and two goals in the opening fifteen minutes gave them a solid foundation from which to play.  Mark Bitmead on the right hand side seemed to be finding space at will and was frequently getting behind the Cove defence.  It was his cross that saw Jack Beadle forcing home the opener, with Max Webb doubling the lead soon afterwards.

Cove though are not top of the league for nothing and they play a direct game very well.  They pulled a goal back just before the half-hour mark from a free kick which deceived Tyler Tobin or may have taken something of a deflection.  Either way it flew into the net.

There was a determined look about the Tangerines though, which had been totally missing in midweek at Camberley, and just two minutes later when the Cove keeper came racing out of his goal but only succeeded in heading the ball backwards, Bitmead took full advantage with a skilful lob from distance into the empty net.

Thus it was 3-1 to the visitors at half-time and when Bitmead hit a superb cross shot just three minutes into the second period, to make it four, it looked as if it may be game over.  Cove are fighters though and Ashford were never able to relax.  Then we had the incident where Fleming turned inside of his marker and was tripped.  Anyone who doubts it can watch the excellent video on the CCL forum but somehow the referee saw it differently.  In the aftermath the keeper then pushed the ball into Tommy Brunton’s face with the referee two yards away although he still had to go over to his assistant to check before issuing a red card.

Cove were desperate to get something from the match and all credit to them as they fought like demons to overcome a three goal deficit.  They got one back with still 25 minutes to go and when they made it 3-4 with seven minutes on the clock, one sensed that Ashford may have blown it.  Not this time though as the defence held on despite another bizarre incident that saw debutant Mitchal Gough sent off whilst Cove were preparing to take a free kick.  Nobody knew what Gough was supposed to have done and watching the video makes no-one any the wiser.  He left the field completely bewildered.  According to the referee afterwards, he kicked out but there is just no sign of it.  It made life even more tricky in those closing seconds but Ashford managed to hold on for three points that over the full 90 minutes were deserved, despite the late pressure.

Not sure if he received the Ashford “man of the match” award or not but Elliott Jones in midfield must have come close, whilst Bitmead was a constant threat up front.  How Ashford missed him when he was injured!  Everyone did well though, either when attacking so well for much of the match, or defending for their lives especially in the closing period.

There is a break from the League on Tuesday evening when Ashford are due to visit Chessington & Hook United in the 2nd Round of the Southern Combination Challenge Cup, to see who will go through to play away at CB Hounslow in the quarter final.  Chessington have seen a high number of postponements at their Chalky Lane ground already this season but they are hopeful that the game will go ahead if there is no further rain.  There was a possibility that the match may have been switched to Short Lane but that has not happened and if their ground is unfit, it will be re-arranged for a later date.