Ashford Town (Middlesex) have been promoted to Step 4 after League Champions Hartley Wintney defeated Camberley Town by 3-2 this afternoon to prevent the Krooners from going ahead of Ashford and taking second place in the table.

The Row had led the table for most of the season and have won the title convincingly, but announced at the end of March that they had not secured the ground grading required for promotion, which meant that the runners-up would be promoted instead.

Ashford completed their fixtures on Saturday holding the all-important second spot but Camberley knew that if they could crash their hosts’ Championship party by winning the match then it would be them making the step up next season.

With over 300 paying spectators present at the match, the hosts drew first blood when Rossi Cook scored from the penalty spot. Camberley’s prolific striker Perry Coles equalised in the first minute of the second half before a defensive effort allowed Cook to go through on goal, rounding the goalkeeper to give Hartley the lead.

With just over 20 minutes remaining, Camberley’s goalkeeper Craig Bradshaw scored for his side, hitting a free-kick from inside his own penalty area that sailed 80 yards and into the net without even bouncing along the way. That kind of unusual goal can turn a game a team’s way but Hartley underlined why they have won the League by ten points by shrugging off the incident. As the game drew to a close, Camberley had a player dismissed but continued to pour men forward and were eventually caught in the final minute, Sam Argent tapping into the net after a well-worked counter-attack.

Immediately afterwards, Hartley Wintney received the Championship Trophy their efforts this season so richly deserve while Ashford were able to celebrate a return to the level from which they were relegated two years ago. There has been some talk on social media about the Ash Trees’ promotion being somehow diminished by dint of going up as runners-up rather than as champions, but to those people, we would point out that Ashford were champions of the League four seasons in succession during the 1990s, only to be repeatedly denied entry to the Isthmian League by changing ground grading regulations. The rules as they stand now are set by The FA, rather than individual competitions and are the same around the country. While there is no doubt that both Hartley Wintney and Camberley Town are more than good enough to play at Step 4, our level is the only one in the country where only one team is promoted per League and it is to be hoped that those now in charge of the game at Wembley will do something about that. We offer our best wishes to both The Row and The Krooners and for the latter, the season is not yet finished as they are still engaged in three Cup competitions. Hopefully, Camberley will secure some silverware to complete a remarkable season for them, which also saw them reach the quarter-final of The FA Vase.

For Ashford, thoughts now turn to next season. We will be placed into a Step 4 League by The FA Leagues Committee, although it would seem most likely that we will go into Division One Central of the Evo-Stik Southern League. Being placed there would give us a local derby against Egham Town, as well as relatively local fixtures against Uxbridge, Hanwell Town and Northwood, mixed with several trips into Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire. The FA may yet decide otherwise, however!

In the meantime, we would like to pay tribute to all of the players, management and coaching staff for their hard work and express our thanks to our supporters for their unstinting backing of the side throughout the campaign. We have had two highly enjoyable and competitive seasons back in the CCL and the League is probably stronger now than it has ever been, with so many clubs moving forward positively on and off the pitch. We will look back fondly on our return to the competition but can start to plan for the challenges ahead.

Forthcoming Events

25 Nov 2017
03:00PM -
Evo-Stik League South v AFC Rushden & Diamonds (H)
28 Nov 2017
07:45PM -
Evo-Stik League South v Hartley Wintney (a)