Barton RoversWith both teams comfortably in mid table, one might have expected a quiet, even tepid encounter between Ashford and Barton on Saturday but that it certainly wasn’t, with drama galore.

From Ashford’s point of view, it is difficult to know how to react to a game that eventually finished two apiece.  On the credit side, Ashford played very well for much of the first half and led by two excellently taken goals at half-time, the scorers being Mark Bitmead and Matt Baxter.  Then in the final minutes of the match, with the score now even, but Ashford down to nine men, the defence along with keeper Paul McCarthy were at their stubborn best to prevent the visitors taking all three points.  As has been said on the forum, rarely can a 2-2 draw be hailed as a triumph when the team taking a two goal lead has been pegged back.

On the debit side, ill discipline probably cost Ashford all three points.  The game looked in the bag but just before the half-time whistle Antonio Simeone found himself dismissed from the field.  It turned the match and whilst he may not have touched his opponent, any gesture towards the head invariably results in a sending-off. Since arriving at Ashford Antonio has been superb for us but he will now receive a three match ban, two of which will be at the start of next season. 

 For the early part of the second half, the ten men did not look as if they would concede but a fiercely struck shot hit Mark Bitmead’s hand in the wall at pace.  Sometimes they are given and sometimes they are not:  inevitably this one was and Barton halved the arrears from the spot in the 65th minute.

That meant “game on” and Ashford defended desperately for the remainder of the game.  With the pitch now resembling a quagmire, the tackles were flying in and when Scott Weight put in one too many, a brawl resulted.  Out came the referee’s book but Weight received just a caution:  it was Matt Baxter who found himself taking the long walk, after receiving a second caution for his part in the melee.  Matt will doubtless say that he was acting as a peacemaker but the referee’s argument afterwards was that he had run 60 yards to get involved. He was possibly unlucky to be the one picked out and quite how the ref didn’t actually manage to see the Barton No. 9 swinging punches is a fair question but the consequence was that Ashford were left to defend with nine men for the remaining fifteen minutes to hang on for a point.  This they did magnificently, with McCarthy and Jim Mann to the fore, and we move on.

This week is yet another busy one with all three senior teams in action.  This evening (Monday), the reserve teams of Ashford and Barton will slug it out at Short Lane in a Suburban League encounter which Ashford need to win if they are to maintain their challenge for the North Division championship.  At present, Ashford hold a one point advantage over Royston Town, who look to be the main challengers, but their run in on paper looks easier, hence the need for all three points this evening.

On Tuesday, the 1st Team make the short trip to Chertsey Town for a league encounter.  Chertsey have not enjoyed a good season but have picked up points recently, winning at Northwood on Saturday and matches between the clubs are usually close.  For anyone not aware, the address of the ground is Alwyns Lane, Chertsey,  KT16 9DW.  The car park is very small and parking in the surrounding streets can be quite difficult so it may be wise to arrive early.  Kick-off is 7.45 p.m.

Finally, on Thursday, the Under-18’s do not have too far to go as they make their way to Bedfont Sports for a Ryman Youth League encounter, again, kicking off at 7.45 pm.