Sun 26 Aug 18: Cray Valley (PM) 4 Ashford 1 (Emirates FA Cup – Preliminary Round)
Eight days ago, Ashford looked very convincing in a 4-1 victory at Chipstead but a strangely inept performance yesterday against a strong and impressive Cray Valley (PM) side saw the Tangerines dumped out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle, the final score being 4-1 to the hosts.
The opening stages were encouraging enough on a dismal wet day that saw the ball skidding along on the excellent surface. Ashford were without Mark Bitmead, cup-tied, having played for CB Hounslow in the competition, but that cannot be an excuse for what followed.
The game was still even but it was the hosts who took the lead on just eight minutes when a hesitant defence gave the ball away and Cray’s Joe N’Guessan took full advantage. Cray tightened their grip on the game on 35 minutes when they were presented with a second goal when there had been ample opportunity to clear the ball. Denzel Gayle was the scorer.
Ashford did their best to fight back but a fairly obvious looking push in the area on James Cottee was ignored by the referee.
The second half saw Ashford finally pepping up a bit but despite some pressure, Ashley Sains in particular at the back for the hosts was on top of his game and nothing seemed to escape his attention. When Ashford did get through they found home custodian Andy Walker equally adept.
The game was put to bed on 58 minutes when yet more poor defending saw Cray break out and Danny Smith made it three. In looking for positives, Ashford did not let their heads go down and finally made it count with a goal from Bradley Wilson to reduce the deficit to two.
Very soon afterwards Cottee this time was the victim of a shirt pull as he cut in on goal but the less than eagle eyed Mr. Myatt failed to spot it and to emphasise it wasn’t the Ashford player’s day he found himself cautioned for alleged simulation in another incident.
Had Ashford managed a second soon after their first, it might have been a different story but as the game wore on it was becoming ever more obvious that the home side were deservedly going through and they emphasised it with a fourth goal near the end.
It is always wise never to over react to either a good performance or a poor one and those who support Ashford will know how much better we can play than this. Fortunately there is an early opportunity to redress the balance tomorrow evening (Tuesday) when we make the short but often tortuous journey to Hanwell Town, kick-off 7.45 p.m. It will be another tough encounter without a doubt, with Hanwell top of the fledgling league table but we need a reaction from the side and hopefully we will get it. Hopefully a few more supporters will be able to make the trip than managed it over to Cray yesterday. We used to take a minimum of 20 people to most away games but presumably the fact that it was a Bank Holiday, with key people away and the fact that it was a Sunday and that it poured with rain throughout were all factors in limiting Ashford support to a minimal number yesterday.
Anyway we thank Cray for their hospitality and wish them all the best in the next round.
Looking ahead to Saturday, there is a special offer on to all local residents with either a TW15 or TW19 home postcode to watch the match against Cheshunt, entirely free of charge. The League have given us special permission to run this trial and we hope that we will at least double the normal gate and possibly attract some new supporters, especially as the early exit from the FA Cup could well have some financial implications for the club.