A full blooded match at Gander Green Lane on Monday evening saw Ashford earn their second win in three days with a 4-2 success over Sutton Common Rovers.

It was Ashford’s first foray on to the artificial surface and it is an impressive sight if you have not seen it before with the straightest lines anyone could imagine, not exactly what you get at most grounds in the CCL!  The surface too is a huge improvement on those of the past even though one got the impression that actually playing on it was still different to normal.  It will be interesting to have the players’ views.  Spectators remain some distance from the pitch though, thanks to the old running track still in existence, despite now being swathed in green.

On a cold evening it was the home side who drew first blood on 27 minutes when Nemo Adams took full advantage of a defensive error to put his side ahead.  It was hard on the visitors as they had started to play some enterprising football on the surface and it was the third match in a row where Ashford have conceded the first goal against the run of play.

It is goals that count though, not the run of play, but as in previous matches, it did not take too long before the equaliser arrived and what a superb strike it was from Mark Bitmead, in the 34th minute, direct from a free kick.

Ashford rarely make life easy for themselves though and just five minutes later SCR took the lead for the second time, when again, better defending would have prevented the goal.  It was scored by the dangerous Phil Page, whose runs were causing problems and it was understandable that SCR looked long for him on almost every occasion.

The game had become feisty and referee Hounsell was gradually filling his notebook, just as he had at Ashford a few weeks earlier, including the rare sight of Tommy Brunton being cautioned for a foul tackle.  There were no more goals before half-time though but Ashford were playing some good football against determined opposition and there was every hope they could pull matters round in the second period.

So it proved with a dominant performance in the second half.  Despite plenty of pressure, it took until the 65th minute for the equaliser to arrive, even though the writing had been on the wall.  Once again it was Bitmead, later voted “Ashford man of the match” who scored it, this time from the spot following a trip.  SCR keeper Sam Freeman guessed correctly but couldn’t keep the effort out.

The home side were still looking for Page at every opportunity and he certainly remained a danger but their attacks had become more spasmodic and all chances of winning went out of the window for them when he was sent off for violent conduct.  Initially, and from the other end, it looked harsh as Tyler Tobin, cautioned for his part in the incident, held on to the ball when he should have released it and it looked from a distance as if Page was simply trying to wrestle the ball back.  The referee confirmed afterwards though that the dismissal was for an attempted head butt, a decision that incensed the home side but it cannot be argued that the referee was right on the spot.

Ashford became ever more dominant in possession and it was no surprise when they finally took the lead on 76 minutes when Samad Kazi, released from defensive duties in recent matches, rose to head home a pin point cross from Alex Fisher.

Kazi in fact had caused problems all evening with his pace, and it was he who made the game totally safe just five minutes later when he slotted home from a through ball.  Sub Bradley Wainwright almost made it five soon afterwards but overall it was a determined performance by the visitors who found, in the second half, that the surface suited them very well indeed.

The Under-18’s are in action later this week, when they travel to Northwood on Thursday evening, whilst the next 1st Team match is at home to Camberley Town on Saturday.  There will be more on that one later in the week.