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Several matches have come close to being ruined by strong winds lately and yesterday’s affair against Horley was probably the worst yet as far as the elements were concerned, with five of the six goals in the game being scored when the team concerned had the strong wind behind them.

Horley won the toss and elected to play with the gale in their favour and an incident packed match did not take too long to get going.  In just the 3rd minute Russell Canderton seemed to be in full control of a poke forward albeit with a Horley attacker hot on his heels.  Suddenly Russell was on the ground for what seemed a routine free kick and the ball was in the net.  Referee Stoyanov though saw no foul and allowed the goal to stand.

Matters became heated quickly and some dubious tackles were going in for a while.  Scott Weight seemed to be badly brought down on the edge of the penalty area only for Mr. Stoyanov to decide it wasn’t even a foul whilst Josh Andrew could hardly complain about his retaliatory caution soon afterwards.  Fortunately it calmed down and as the half went on, Ashford were reasonably pleased with the manner in which they were coping with Horley’s attacking play, even though they clearly possess a potent force up front.

Disaster struck though on 32 minutes when the visitors doubled their lead and from their point of view it was an excellent goal.  It came from an Ashford corner, taken by left back Alex Fisher, as is the norm, but on this occasion it was quickly cleared and a sweeping movement saw Ashford stretched at the back, leaving Adam Pullen to score.

There was no further scoring before half-time and Ashford remained hopeful that with the help of the elements they could still pull the match round.  Confidence was though taking something of a dip as they were unable to make the break through  and it seemed a hopeless task when Horley broke out and notched their third goal on 63 minutes again through Nadesan – a superb player who could certainly play at a higher level but seemingly one without the ambition to do so, which, of course, is Horley’s great fortune and good luck to him.  Loyalty is a rare commodity sometimes.

Anyway, it was looking like a second home defeat of the season for Ashford, even though a Horley substitute performed the daftest act of the day by getting himself needlessly sent off for kicking the ball at Josh Andrew, for no obvious reason, while the Ashford player was on the ground.

If there is one thing in this Ashford side though it is that they never know when they are beaten and for the second time in five days they were fighting a three goal deficit with time running out.  Manager Ben Murray, not to everyone’s pleasure, brought on fresh legs in Dan Fleming and Bailey Mummery, soon followed by Samad Kazi and suddenly Horley’s defences were breached as Canderton pulled one back.  It seemed no more than a consolation but when Dan Fleming got another two minutes later, the match turned on its head with Ashford having just over ten minutes to rescue what had looked an unlikely point, or even better.  Manager Murray knew what he was doing!

The next incident though was the dismissal of Will Boye, giving Mr. Stoyanov the honour of being the first referee to send an Ashford player off the field this season.  It was a last ditch tackle and Boye was sent off for violent conduct rather than preventing a goal scoring opportunity.  On another day, or earlier in the match, it might only have been a yellow but it was difficult to argue too convincingly against the decision, especially in the light of the earlier sending off as referees all too often, and possibly sub-consciously, look to even things up.

The play though remained all in one direction and in the second minute of stoppage time Ashford equalised.  A cross was swung in and Horley’s Ryan Brackpool in attempting to clear the ball, headed into his own net to bring to an end a controversial but absorbing contest and perhaps a well done should go to both sides for their endeavours in such difficult circumstances.

Ashford will hope for a quieter contest in their next game, which is not until next Saturday, when they travel to meet Guildford City.

There was late news last night when Middlesex County FA released the draw for the 3rd Round (Quarter-Final) of the Middlesex Senior Cup, in which we understand that Ashford have been drawn at home to Ryman League Harrow Borough in a match that will take place on  Tuesday 19 January, unless there is an agreement to bring the match forward.