Ashford managed to overcome strong opponents on Tuesday evening in the shape of Epsom & Ewell, in the 3rd Round of the Cherry Red Records Premier Challenge Cup.  It is doubtful that Chipstead’s pitch, usually so excellent,  has ever been much heavier than it was last night but it was perfectly playable so well done to those concerned in getting the game on when once again there were multiple postponements elsewhere. 

Epsom & Ewell were welcoming hosts but within two minutes of kick-off Ashford went ahead.  A short corner routine seemed to catch the home defenders unaware and although the home keeper did well to stop the first effort, in the end Dan Fleming re-acted first and had an easy tap in.  For a while Ashford dominated proceedings, playing some quite effortless football as indeed they have been doing in recent weeks.  Inevitably though, the match evened out against a determined home side but there were no further goals before half-time.  There were some close things though, the closest probably being a goal bound effort that saw the excellent Joe Green in the right place to head off the line.

At the other end Fleming was put clean through once again but was driven wide and couldn’t turn it in.  Epsom also put in a couple of fierce unstoppable effort but both were wide.

Once again though Ashford got off to a fast start at the beginning of the second half and a good move saw them slice through the home defence as Mark Bitmead fed Fleming who calmly notched his second of the evening.

Epsom are not the type of side to lay down and die though and they exerted some strong pressure in a bid to retrieve the situation.  They did get the ball in the net once but Tyler Tobin in goal looked to have been fouled and it was disallowed although it was initially difficult to see what decision the referee had made.

The game was never out of hand but inevitably a few tasty tackles were going in from both sides and both Samad Kazi and skipper Russell Canderton picked up cautions for the Tangerines.  More to the point though free kicks conceded in one’s own half were always going to pile on the pressure but the back four stood firm and with Tobin virtually faultless behind them, the clean sheet was maintained.  In the meantime, Tommy Brunton in midfield, whilst not perhaps quite at his absolute best, was a superb outlet with his distribution and it was he who started the move which finally clinched the tie.  Once again though, it was the final combination between Bitmead and Fleming that did the trick, as the former dug out a superb cross for Fleming to head past the home keeper in the 78th minute.

Manager Murray was now able to introduce a couple of the youngsters, Mason Roseboom and Harry Herdman for the final minutes and Herdman had an excellent opportunity to notch his first senior goal close to the end but his effort was well saved.

Despite being three down, the home side never wavered in their efforts and with Mr. Kissi finding almost six minutes of stoppage time, Ashford were still relieved to hear the final whistle.  Having managed to get over one massive hurdle in this match, the draw for the quarter final will see Ashford travelling to either Hartley Wintney or Chessington & Hook United, probably on Tuesday 1 March.

The usual vote amongst the Ashford supporters present (and a big thank you to those who made the trip) saw Dan Fleming given the Ashford “Man of the Match” Award and quite rightly.  Once again though there were other contenders.  For this writer, Max Webb and Scott Weight were excellent again doing so much unheralded work, along with Kazi and Canderton at the back, and if we ever have a “most improved player” award, it would surely go to Joe Green, who is now a very competent full back indeed.  There are no dunces in this current squad though and just about everyone deserved a mention really.

Following yesterday’s article on the web site, in case you were wondering where one or two of the players were, it was realised in time that both Josh Andrew and Will Boye were cup-tied, so couldn’t play.  Perry Luckins would have been OK but we understand he wasn’t feeling well.

Don’t forget that the Under-18’s are also in cup action this evening (Wednesday) when they will entertain Sandhurst Town U18 in the quarter final of the Grant-McLellan Youth Cup, at Short Lane, kick-off 7.45 p.m.

Another new date is that the 1st Team are now scheduled to visit Raynes Park Vale on Tuesday 8 March, following last Saturday’s postponement.