Fielding a strong squad, albeit with Tommy Brunton and Russell Canderton on the bench, Ashford made further progress on Tuesday in the Middlesex Charity Cup, winning by 6 goals to 3 at North Greenford United. 

Even allowing for the fact that their opponents are at Step 5, and they are no bad side, obviously building for the future after suffering relegation at the end of last season, this turned into a match that almost deserved the accolade of scintillating, such was the quality of some of the goals from both sides.

On a heavy but perfectly playable surface, Ashford looked immediately purposeful as Dan Fleming went close but were rocked back when NGU took the lead in effectively their first attack.  A right wing surge led to a cross and NGU’s Alfie Cain was on hand to give Tyler Tobin no chance.

Fortunately there seemed to be a collective determination about the side tonight and the equaliser was not long in arriving and it was one of the contenders for “goal of the evening” as Harry Herdman combined with Samad Kazi, whose low cross picked out Dan Fleming who controlled the ball and hammered it home .

The match was even enough at this stage and some of the football on show was to be applauded but it was Ashford who went ahead on 38 minutes when, once again Herdman and Kazi combined to give Fleming another opportunity and he took it with aplomb.  Sadly, to illustrate the old adage that any team is at its most vulnerable after scoring, NGU went straight down the field and equalised within a minute through Dan Vincent.  Ashford were convinced it was offside as they stood like statues but there was no swaying the officials and the teams went in level after an entertaining first half.

We then had a “drama” during the interval with one of the assistants reporting himself unwell and there was a delay of around 20 minutes whilst a replacement was found but when the match did resume it seemed a catalyst for the Tangerines who regained the lead within four minutes.  It was a very welcome goal for Mark Bitmead from a long range free kick albeit deflected.  Mark has gone through a lean patch recently but has worked hard to come through it and he deserved his reward.  Ashford looked to have the initiative now and on the hour mark made it 4-2.  NGU could only partially clear a corner and the ball rebounded to Samad Kazi who shot home with considerable force from distance.  Ashford were cruising now and within minutes Kazi scored again, arguably an even better goal, somehow curling it in from a tight angle almost on the byeline.

To their credit though, NGU continued to play and refused to accept defeat.  Not too often, but shford still looked uncertain at the back at times and it was their undoing on 78 minutes when they conceded possession allowing Vincent to  become the next player to send in an unstoppable effort to bring the score to 5-3 in favour of the visitors.

It was Ashford though who had the last word, as the rejuvenated Bitmead got on the ball again and drove at the goal and finished with confidence,  It was certainly good to see both him and Dan Fleming back amongst the goals.

It all became too much for one NGU player whose act of dissent in front of the bench included throwing his shirt at the referee and there was a considerable delay as he took a long time to walk off the pitch following the inevitable red card.  He may well face additional disciplinary action but it did not detract from the overall showing of both sides.  NGU have consolidated this season, following relegation last season, but they look a very promising side as they rebuild their squad.

For Ashford, no-one will get carried away but the overall performance was back to their early season form and just what they needed after some incredible misfortune recently.   It is important now though that Ashford show the same determination on Saturday at Uxbridge, more of which tomorrow.  There were several contenders for “Ashford man of the match” but in the absence of the usual official vote, the writer would choose Samad Kazi, so fast and determined and with two goals to his credit.  There could be honourable mentions for just about everyone but a special word also goes to Harry Herdman who was given a start from the Under-18’s and he is starting to look like a fully fledged 1st Team player, being directly involved in two of the goals and showing up well throughout the evening.