Late drama but Ashford make progress
FA Cup Preliminary Round,
| Ashford’s trip to the coast for this FA Cup Preliminary Round match went to plan but the plucky hosts made them fight all the way, including scoring an equaliser from the penalty spot with just 2 minutes of normal time left. The day was saved though by substitute Mark Bitmead who scored with what was pretty much his first touch of the match.
Ashford started slowly but, after an early corner for the home side, Rico Morris and Jamie Lawrence combined to give Jordan Kiffin a chance but the Ashford midfielder shot over. Guy Hollis surged down the right, shortly after, but his cross was cleared only as far as Luke Hickie but he fired wide then Peacehaven had a chance of their own as Clive Snell played the ball across the face of the Ashford goal but good defending from Russ Canderton prevented former Lewes striker Lee Newman from profiting.
As the visitors stepped up the pace they started to find holes in the Peacehaven defence but good work from their keeper Josh Heyburn kept the scores level.
A long throw from Hollis, on the quarter hour, found Jones Awuah but Heyburn kept the Ghanaian international’s shot out with his feet then a pin-point ball from Scott Weight found Hollis whose deep cross was controlled by Awuah but his shot on the turn was again kept out by the legs of Heyburn.
Some of Ashford’s one touch play was superb but they couldn’t turn their dominance into goals and there was always the danger that Peacehaven would snatch a goal. Pearce denied Newman from Ashley Rees’ cross, 5 minutes before the interval, and the home side went so close to taking the lead, on the stroke of half time when, with the Ashford defence sleeping, Tom Bowles set Rees free with a quickly taken free kick but the Peacehaven striker’s shot hit Pearce’s right hand post and ran across the face of the goal.
Ashford pushed up at the start of the 2nd half, Morris played in Kane Louis on the left, Louis evaded the tackle of Craig Hall and crossed to the near post but Awuah couldn’t get his shot on target.
Ashford took a deserved lead in the 61st minute, Hickie twisted and turned before playing the ball into the penalty area where Lawrence knocked it across goal for the prolific Jones Awuah to touch home.
Three minutes later, Rees found his way into the referee’s book for a very late tackle on Morris, then Weight followed him for a foul on Aaron Gunn. Jamie Cullinane’s header from the resulting free kick was acrobatically tipped over his bar by Pearce.
Billy Jeffreys replaced Morris before another good run by Hollis got him into the host’s penalty area where he unselfishly tried to pick out Jamie Lawrence instead of having a shot himself.
With four minutes of normal time left, Mark Bitmead replaced Awuah as Ashford looked to inject a little more pace up front, but it was the home team that struck when Jeffreys was adjudged to have handled in his own penalty area, Snell stepped up to fire home the penalty.
Just as a replay looked imminent back at Short Lane, Mark Bitmead latched onto a flick from Lawrence and outpaced the tiring Peacehaven defence to draw the keeper out and score a trademark goal and set up a meeting with Worthing in the next round.
There was just enough time left for Louis to have a shot saved and for Hickie to be cautioned for dissent.