When a crisp header from Barton’s unmarked Elliott Bailey put his side one up with barely four minutes on the clock, not too many people would have anticipated what was to come.  Indeed against a side on the top of their form with four successive league victories under their belt, one wondered if a second league defeat following the debacle at AFC Dunstable the previous week was on the cards.

Fortunately, Ashford were able to equalise very quickly, thanks to the reliable Mark Bitmead and suddenly started to play some of their best football all season.  The Tangerines went in front soon afterwards from the penalty spot when a visiting defender was penalised for hand ball.  One member of the Barton bench disputed the decision at length, using some very regrettable language, especially given that it was our junior day and we had any number of junior players present with their parents but Bitmead calmly waited for the furore to die down and planted his penalty home with ease.  The writer’s view as the offence happened was that it was a soft award quite frankly, the referee’s explanation afterwards being that the player had his hands up and thus in an unnatural position.

There was no stopping the Tangerines now though and it quickly became three as Ashford played some excellent stuff.  Bitmead turned provider this time for Dan Fleming who found a quality finish to make the score 3-1.  It is fair to say though that Barton were certainly not out of it and it was just as well that Kav Keadell in the Ashford goal was having surely his best ever game in an Ashford shirt, one save almost resembling the Gordon Banks stop in the World Cup many moons ago.

Despite that though Ashford  could easily have scored three more goals before they did actually strike again.  Twice Fleming might have made it count seemingly right through but couldn’t quite strike it right, whilst Bitmead through on goal again saw the visiting keeper pull off a save of his own that deserved the applause it got.  A fourth goal did arrive though just on the stroke of half-time though with Kam English getting in on things. The speedy flank player picked the ball up wide left and let go a dipping effort that gave Aaron Fulton, in goal for Barton, no chance as it sailed over his head.

Overall it was a great half by Ashford but it is testament to the threat posed by the visitors that nobody felt certain of victory despite the 4-1 lead, or even when Fleming hit arguably the goal of the game eight minutes after the re-start.  A superb ball from the bustling Max Webb to left back Alex Fisher saw him marauding down the left wing before pulling the ball back for Fleming to swivel and crash home.

One hoped that Barton might accept their fate at this point but they did not and enjoyed their best period of the match.  Ashford looked solid at the back though, with skipper Russ Canderton and indeed all the back four looking at their best but referee Sandoe then rather blotted his copy book in Ashford eyes by awarding the visitors a soft penalty of their own, apparently for handball by Canderton, which pegged the scoreline back to 5-2 in Ashford’s favour.

Blow us all down he then did it again when what looked a superb tackle by Samad Kazi was also punished by a penalty award.  Bailey scored both spot kicks for his side and thus completed his hatrick and Ashford for all their excellent play found themselves just two goals in front with the best part of 15 minutes to play, including stoppage time, and there was six minutes of that.

There were no more real scares though and deep in stoppage time English restored the three goal cushion with an individual goal as he weaved his way through to make the final score 6-3 to the Tangerines, who now sit nicely in 6th place with the two sides above them only in front by a narrow goal difference total.

There was a sense of satisfaction at the end of the game, not simply because we had scored six goals but also because they had come against one of the best sides we have faced all season and it was a good way to bounce back.  Who knows what AC Dunstable may have made of it after last week when by all accounts we could have conceded ten.

The day also marked the latest of our successful Junior days, thus swelling the overall attendance to 273, along with the official launch of Ashford’s book, written by Gareth Coates, on the history of the club.  Gareth was present, along with Graham Atkin, special guest for the day, who holds the record, set in the 1965-66 season for scoring eight goals in a single match, a record that has never been broken, although the writer recalls a six goal haul by Richard McDonald a few years back.  A special certificate was presented to Graham at half-time by our other main guest Jim Taylor, President of Middlesex FA, always welcome at Short Lane.  It was also good to see another of Ashford’s prolific scorers from the past in the shape of Andy Smith whose exploits will also never be forgotten.  

We go on now to a midweek trip down the A3 to Petersfield Town on Tuesday evening.  They have not done so well this season but now have a new manager and we expect a very tough match as indeed they all are in this Division.  There will be more on this one on the web site tomorrow.

To complete an excellent weekend, the Ladies won by eight goals to nil in the John Greenwood Memorial Trophy against Division Two (North) side Actonians Reserves, scorers being Ashley Cheatley (3), H Isaacs (2), L Neufville (2) and C Benham.  The girls will be facing the same opposition next Sunday in the Greater London Women’s League Cup, again at Short Lane.