Ashford travelled to AFC Hornchurch on Saturday in the 1st Qualifying Round of the FA Trophy and won by three goals to two, to set up yet another away cup tie in the 2nd Qualifying round, away to Ryman League Tonbridge Angels.

Ben Murray made five changes from the side that had faced Slough Town in the week and with the rested players returning, it was the visitors who made the early running, taking the lead on 14 minutes, when, from distance, Mark Bitmead cracked home a free kick that gave home keeper Joe Bowles little chance.

Ashford were playing well and it could not be said to be undeserved when Max Herbert made it two just after the half-hour mark, when a right wing cross from Kameron English found the Ashford player in space and he calmly placed it past the onrushing keeper.

There was no further scoring before the break and Hornchurch had barely threatened but they came out for the second half with a fresh determination and were boosted within two minutes as they halved the arrears.  It was an avoidable goal from Ashford’s point of view as there seemed little danger as Lewis Taylor went to head the ball back to Kav Keadell in goal following a shout and possibly misjudged the distance and it became a race between Keadell and Hornchurch’s David Knight.  From the other end it looked initially as if Keadell had won the race and headed the ball away a split second before the two players collided heavily.  Referee Mannix seemed hesitant as to what the decision should be but his assistant rather took over and clearly thought there had been a foul.  So a penalty it was and Keadell went into the book.  He then performed brilliantly in saving Knight’s kick but it rebounded out and Leon McKenzie was the first to it.

For a while Hornchurch were buoyed, as they would be, and mounted a series of attacks, mostly using the long ball but despite one or two near things, the visitors dealt well with the ariel bombardment, with Scott Weight, an absolute rock just in front of the back four.  That said there was almighty relief amongst the visiting supporters when, with just ten minutes on the clock, plus stoppage time, Max Webb restored the two goal advantage when Bowles was unable to hold on to another Bitmead free kick leaving Webb to react and find the back of the net.

With Tommy Brunton on to steady the ship, it seemed game over but Hornchurch to their credit did not buckle and within a minute or two they scored again themselves when Jed Chouman found the net, ensuring a few more uncomfortable minutes to survive.  The referee was receiving advice from all and sundry concerning his time keeping but after four and a bit minutes he blew his whistle and Ashford were £2500 richer and into the next round, in which they could not really have been given a tougher tie with Tonbridge very close to the top of the Ryman League Premier Division.  We can worry about that one in due course but just to remind everyone that our next match is scheduled for Sunday, not Saturday, away at AFC Dunstable.  We are less than happy about it but there will be more on the game later in the week.

There is no 1st Team midweek game but the Under-18’s are due to be at home to Hendon U18 on Wednesday evening, kick-off 7.45 p.m.  It is understood that Hendon may have a problem with their youth side and that the match could be in some doubt but there will be confirmation one way or another as soon as we know.

Ashford Ladies drew earlier today one apiece with Putney Vale Ladies, the first points they have dropped in the League this season.