Everything continued to go to plan on Friday evening as Ashford overcame a youthful and at times, impressive Andover Town from the Wessex League by three goals to two, thanks to an 86th minute penalty, blasted home by Rob Curtis.

A reasonable attendance of 103 saw Ashford and Andover testing each other out for the first ten minutes but as the game progressed, Ashford started to dominate possession and but for some fairly wild, or on other occasions, tame, finishing, might have developed a comfortable lead.  Nevertheless, it was the visitors who had the best opportunity but Tyler Tobin pulled off a superb save to tip the ball over.

The breakthrough came on 31 minutes and it was a goal that would have pleased manager Ben Murray.  A text book short corner was worked well and a pin-point cross from Alex Fisher was firmly headed home by Jack Mullan.

Ashford continued to enjoy more of the possession at this stage and whilst there were no further goals before half-time, they seemed to have a good grip on the match.  It took just 20 seconds though to jolt the Ash Trees out of any complacency as Andover equalised immediately and for a while the old maxim that goals change matches was never more evident as the visitors suddenly looked just like a team that had only lost three league matches all last season.  After a further six minutes they demonstrated their confidence by going ahead, with Ashford looking a little stunned by the turn of events.

Both sides made regular changes as the half went on but Ashford gradually settled down again and deservedly equalised just after the hour mark.  Again it was an excellent goal that exemplified the potential partnership this season of Mark Bitmead and Dan Fleming.  This time it was Bitmead with a stirring left wing run who crossed for Fleming to deftly notch his fifth pre-season goal to level the scores.  Without going overboard, if Ashford had possessed the goal threat posed by these two, last season, it would have been a reasonable bet that they would not have found themselves in Step 5 football this season.

Anyway, Ashford continued to press and on the run of play and numbers of overall chances, deserved the winner from the spot as mentioned.  Referee Gill administered the match with some good common sense and it was a pleasant evening all round.

The experiment of a Friday evening game was interesting and Ashford may well look to play a few more local league games on Fridays this season if their opponents are willing.

 

There is another game at Short Lane today (Saturday) when GB Deaf take on Sweden Deaf in a qualifying match for the European Championships in 2015.  The match starts at 2.30 p.m. and admission, as fixed by the GB Deaf Authorities, is £5.

The 1st Team have now completed their pre-season and a further week of intensive training will hopefully set them up for their opening league match of the season next Saturday at home to Cove, who were one of the best teams in the CCL last season.  No defining conclusions, good or bad, can be drawn from just one match, but it will be a small pointer as to how Ashford’s rejuvenated squad is likely to fare in a league that is probably far more professional and organised than when Ashford left it 14 years ago.