Kiffin strike helps Ashford make point
Zamaretto League, Central Division
| Another first for Ashford, this, the first ever visit to the Cambridgeshire club, follows the first ever meeting between them back in November when Ashford ran out the winners by 4 goals to 2. With player/manager Jamie Lawrence still side-lined by injury, Rob Curtis continued his education in the centre of the Ashford midfield while Jim Mann made a welcome return following several months out with a serious knee injury, replacing Oscar Lubwama who took his place on the bench. Also in the starting line-up was Luigi Hernandez deputising for the injured Russ Canderton and Theron Wood, in for leading scorer Jones Awuah who had a slight groin niggle.
Rangers ‘ Declan Rodgers was the first to threaten Paul McCarthy’s goal when his 7th minute free kick was headed away for a corner, swiftly followed by a half chance at the other end when a combination of Christian Nanetti and Theron Wood paved the way for a hastily taken looping shot from Isiah Rankin that caused no problem for McCarthy’s opposite number, Daniel Bircham.
McCarthy was again on hand to snuff out a dangerous cross from Deacan Napier, shortly after, as the game went from end to end, then a free kick for a foul on Alex Austin was pumped into the Ashford penalty area by Luke Hipwell only to be cleared as far as Andy Coleman who skied his shot.
The visitors had a decent chance of their own, minutes later, Akwasi Edusei and Wood sending Nanetti away down the left where he wriggled past Austin and delivered a fine cross but Rankin couldn’t quite get sufficient power behind his header to trouble Bircham, then the evasive Nanetti broke through again, this time down the centre only to be bought down unfairly by Michael Simpson, Nanetti took the free kick himself but Bircham was equal to it.
Rangers put together a good passage of play of their own on 35 minutes culminating in a scuffed shot by Simpson before, in the 39th minute, Jones Awuh replaced Wood.
Ashford took the lead in the 43rd minute with a training ground routine. Jordan Kiffin played a short corner out to Tom Kanek who, in turn, found Rankin. In the meantime Kiffin had stolen into the box where he received the ball from Rankin and coolly slid the ball past Bircham.
Good defending by Luigi Hernandez stopped Napier in his tracks, early in the second half then the lively Rodgers evaded 2 tackles and saw his shot deflected for a corner.
The visitors pressed and had another half chance when Awuah swopped passes with Kiffin then tried his luck from fully 25yards but the ball sailed over Bircham’s bar, then a tremendous ball from Billy Jeffreys found Nanetti in space but good defending by Austin alleviated the danger.
A fluffed clearance gave Rangers the chance of a 70th minute equaliser which they took with aplomb. The ball fell to Robert Foster who set off goal-wards leaving Ashford’s defence stranded in his wake and, with McCarthy looming large in front of him, unleashed an unstoppable shot that cannoned off the underside of the bar and into the net giving the Ashford keeper no chance.
The home side should have taken the lead, shortly after, when Hipwell broke through Ashford’s lines and found himself one on one with McCarthy but the big custodian stood tall and calmly plucked the Ranger’s striker’s shot out of the air.
The visitors had the chance to take all three points home with them with ten minutes left, Awuah got his head to a ball down field but the un predictable bounce of the pitch went a long way to explaining Rankin’s unusually heavy first touch, allowing the keeper to make the interception.
Late chances for Foster at one end and Awuah at the other came to nothing and the match ended all square, probably the right result and giving Ashford a mini unbeaten run of three.