If you give away three goals in the first 17 minutes of a match, it is very likely that you will lose the game.  So it proved for Ashford on Saturday against Epsom & Ewell who were presented with three very preventable goals in that opening period.  One could be said to fortunate in that there was an unfortunate ricochet in the build up but the other two can only be put down to poor defending, and, to be fair, the ability of the visitors to take the chances on offer, especially the second one when Epsom’s main striker Kyle Hough went in bravely to stab the ball past Tyler Tobin, collecting a bang for his troubles that saw him unable to carry on. We wish him a speedy recovery.

Having been shell shocked by these early developments, Ashford to their credit and spurred on by an incandescent Ben Murray, set about retrieving the situation and pulled one back very quickly with a slide rule effort by Jack Beadle.  Just two minutes later Samad Kazi scrambled the ball home after a shot had hit the post and the come-back seemed very much on with just 25 minutes on the clock.

Somehow though the game seemed to fizzle out after that and although they enjoyed the greater possession Ashford never really troubled their visitors’ goal again.  Epsom defended well, wasted as much time as they could and the realisation struck home before the end that Ashford were not going to get anything from the match as they rather ran out of ideas.  Indeed Epsom had opportunities themselves to score again so it was a less than perfect day after another run of five straight wins. 

It is hardly a disaster though as the League seems tighter than ever this season which can be demonstrated by the fact that Chertsey won at Epsom last week whilst on Saturday Sutton Common Rovers won at Camberley, who played part of the game with ten men, following the sending off of Bobby Dormer.  The one exception at present seems to be Hartley Wintney who won again, this time narrowly at Knaphill by the only goal of the game.  Well done to them but it’s a long, long season.  One only has to look at Cove to see how fortunes can change quickly, which they did for Cove after Christmas last year after they looked like running away with the League in the first half of the season.

A word for our referee on Saturday, Mr. Luis Pinto Nunes.  Mr. Nunes showed exactly how it should be done exercising both common sense and restraint throughout the afternoon.  There were very few fouls in the match anyway but a spat between Dan Fleming and Epsom defender, Matt Tanton could easily have seen both players sent off, and neither could really have complained, but Mr. Nunes took his time, took into account the general good discipline from both sides and allowed both players to stay on the field.  That’s what most clubs would want from referees i.e. some individuality and common sense and Mr. Nunes will receive an excellent mark from Ashford and probably from Epsom as well and not just because of the one incident.

Ashford welcomed new signing Will Boye into the squad and he came on towards the end, albeit in an unfamiliar midfield position and there is plenty more going on behind the scenes to strengthen the squad.  No signings are ever announced until they have been sealed and settled but hopefully there will be more news this week.

Going the other way, until Christmas, by way of a gentleman’s agreement, is Harry Driver who needs game time and he has moved to Guildford City where he went straight into their line-up for their remarkable 9-3 win at Chessington on Saturday.  He was substituted in the second half and hopefully that was tactical rather than any re-occurrence of the injury that has kept him out for much of the season.

Mark Bitmead is getting closer to fitness but sadly it looks as if Lewis Taylor’s season may be over.  It was good to see him at the ground albeit on crutches on Saturday and we all wish him the best for as speedy a recovery as possible.

This week there are three matches involving Ashford sides.  The 1st Team will be at home on Tuesday evening to Beckenham Town from the South East Combination (ex-Kent League) in the 1st Round of the Surrey Senior Cup and it looks another tough match as Beckenham are in 5th place in their table with an unbeaten 11 match run behind them in all competitions.  We have not played each other since September 2000, over fifteen years ago, when we came out on top by 2 goals to 1 in the 2nd Qualifying Round of the FA Vase, courtesy of goals from Des Vertannes (penalty) and Scott Todd, now playing for Frimley Green by the way.  That was the only previous meeting between our clubs.  The winners will play away to Knaphill in the 2nd Round.

Quite why it is necessary at this time of the season is not known but the Under-18’s have two matches this week.  This evening (Monday) they will be away to Staines Town in a Ryman Youth League match whilst on Wednesday they will play at home to Bedfont Sports in the 1st Round of the Lucas Fettes Youth Cup.

Manager Nick Bailey has sent in a brief summary from last week’s Youth defeat at the hands of Northwood which is below:

“A very disappointing evening for our 18s because the side that played against Northwood played and beat Wealdstone the week before in such a convincing manor.  It was an easy decision to start with the same side but unlike last week the players decided not to show up until they were 3 down with time running out. 

Ashford were unlucky with the goals that they conceded, the first came after 15 minutes when one of our midfield players was off the pitch receiving treatment leaving us to defend a set piece with 10 men - having said that the goal was a defensive mistake with a free header inside the 6 yard box. Northwood's two other goals came in the second half, one was a freak own goal that flicked off our defender leaving our keeper no chance and the third was a gift from the centre back leaving a one on one with our keeper. We certainly made it easy for Northwood but they deserved the 3 points on the night.”