Just three CCL matches survived the rain on Saturday and whilst the other two games, at Camberley and Sutton Common Rovers may have been equally good, all the excitement, goals, etc. were at Short Lane as Ashford and Knaphill put on a superb show of entertainment for the crowd, swelled to 220, no doubt due to all the other local matches, including that at Staines Town, falling foul to the weather.

Yet again the surface, seemingly untroubled by the heavy rain, remained reasonably firm throughout and barely cut up throughout to the point where, had there been a further match scheduled immediately after this one, it would have gone ahead with no hesitation, so take a bow Steve Honey and Liam Balmer.

Ashford found themselves without Dan Fleming (unavailable) but were able to field a highly suitable deputy in Scott Harris, signed on dual forms with Slough Town.  With Joe Green also missing, Josh Andrew went across to right back, allowing club skipper Russ Canderton to return following injury.

It did not take long for the entertainment to get going.  Knaphill could have gone ahead in the first minute but play went straight down the other end, when ex-Ashford and Knaphill defender Arafat Kabuye under hit a back-pass, allowing Jack Beadle to sweep in and beat Richard Shelley with a powerful effort.

Knaphill though did not lose their composure in any way and two goals in six minutes saw them turn things round to go 2-1 up.  The first came from Charlie Postance as he out muscled the returning Russ Canderton and the second from Robbie Kersley.

It was fairly clear that this was never going to be anything other than a game with plenty of goals and on 34 minutes it was Canderton who pulled Ashford level with a powerful strike from close range.  Two minutes from half-time, with Ashford starting to get a grip on their opponents, Bailey Mummery put Ashford ahead when he almost lost the ball but recovered to send a fierce strike into the goal off the underside of the bar.  In the meantime, Tyler Tobin in the Ashford goal found himself called into action more than once, responding with some fine saves.

The match had been fairly contested but the drama of the afternoon arrived very shortly after half-time when Knaphill keeper Shelley brought down Mark Bitmead in the penalty area.  As Mr. Coen put whistle to mouth to award the penalty, the ball was driven into goal and how he must have wished he had just held the whistle for a few seconds longer as he would then have avoided the controversy that followed.  Shelley was sent off, although it took a long time for the player to actually leave the field, leaving the sub keeper to pick Mark Bitmead’s  penalty out of the net.

That made it 4-2 to the Tangerines and with Ashford now more or less totally dominant, Harris made it five with a deft effort and then, on 78 minutes it was Bitmead again who put the scoreline at 6-2.  Game over, it seemed especially as Beadle and Josh Andrew had hit the bar.   Manager Ben Murray introduced his subs, including young Isaac Mplana, who has been scoring well in the Under-18’s for his first taste of senior football.  He did not look out of place by any means.

Suddenly Knaphill, who never stopped trying to play football, pulled one back through Danny Taylor with arguably the best goal of the match, or certainly the best finish.  6-3 now, but Ashford rarely do things the easy way and when the visitors scored again two minutes later with the clock on 84 minutes, to make it 6-4, Ashford suddenly needed to find an extra degree of resilience which they did despite a long six minutes of stoppage time played by Mr. Coen.

And so it finished, with Ashford claiming a further three points that actually sent them back to the top of the table with Hartley Wintney’s match at home to Farnham Town falling foul of the weather.

There is no midweek match, so Ashford will next be in action next Saturday, away to Raynes Park Vale but more on that later in the week.  There is a Ryman Youth Under-18 match scheduled for this coming week and that is on Monday, when the lads will be away to Camberley Town U18.

Tomorrow we will also be printing a major article from manager Ben Murray in which he will be outlining changes to his management structure.