Lodge’s spot-kick secures precious away win
Evo-Stik League, Division One Central
For the second time in a week, Ashford secured an away win with a late goal at the end of a hard-fought and completive match with a robust AFC Hayes side.
When “The Brook” had travelled to the Robert Parker Stadium, their keeper Simon Grant had performed heroics to keep Ashford at bay in a 0-0 draw, so it was probably to be expected that the Tangerines first goal was slightly freakish.
In the second minute of the game, several players were attempting to win the ball in an almighty melee that was reminiscent of playground football. Amidst the scramble, Dan Brown managed to turn the ball goalward while lying on the turf and the shot rolled in off the base of the post.
The Ash Trees went on to dominate the first half, with Dan Brown twice going close and Jim Mann chipping the goalkeeper and staying on his feet after being clipped by Grant. The ball reached Alex Duffy, whose shot was deflected onto the post. Ashley Lodge and Mark Bitmead were also causing problems for the home defence. AFC Hayes were dangerous on the break though, and Lewis Ochoa hit a free-kick over the bar
However, just before the interval, AFC Hayes were gifted an equaliser. Paul McCarthy called for a long ball, but wasn’t as quick off his line as Terry Smith was in charging down the slope and the midfielder beat the keeper to the ball and turned a shot into the empty net.
Ashford made a change early in the second half, when Dan Brown went off with what looked like an injury, to be replaced by Pietro Palladino. The diminutive forward was a constant thorn in AFC Hayes’ side, and it was his 63rd minute run and pass that allowed Ashley Lodge to chip a shot at goal that skimmed the crossbar. That chance came either side of two good opportunities for the hosts, Dominic Rhone firing a long-range free kick just wide, before Matty Woods blasted wide from close range.
That was a brief purple patch for Hayes and it was the visitors who looked likeliest to go on and grab a winner. Kofi Lockhart-Adams replaced Mark Bitmead as Ashford searched for a goal, but Brook looked comfortable in defence and seemed to be on course for a point. The crucial incident came in the 84th minute, when Simon Grant flattened Pietro Palladino as the forward closed in on goal. Grant was awarded “only” a yellow card for the foul, as in the referee’s view the striker’s chip over the stopper was going wide, so the foul did not deny an obvious goalscoring opportunity. However, after a two minute delay, Ashley Lodge sent Grant the wrong way.
There was time for a feisty fixture to boil over, as tempers flared after Jim Mann was scythed down by an appalling challenge. Hayes’ Michael Buckley and Kofi Lockhart-Adams threw the ball at each other and were both dismissed for adopting an aggressive attitude. However, Ashford were untroubled during stoppage time and held out for a valuable win.