Ryman League Premier Division,
One hundred and forty-four brave or foolhardy (whichever way you want to look at it) souls endured the atrocious weather conditions to witness Ashford’s worst defeat since their promotion into the top flight of the Ryman League. Unforced errors, 2 penalties and poor defensive judgement along with some tidy football from their visitors contributed to Ashford’s downfall.
With the one match suspension of Billy Jeffreys being served during this match, Mark Butler was forced into juggling his players and elected to bring in Vinnie O’Sullivan at right back, move Brett Cooper over to left back with Ricardo Joseph taking Jeffreys place in the centre of defence along side Stuart Bamford and up front, he rested Scott Harris and bought in Gavin Smith.
After just 9 minutes of a very wet and windy afternoon man-of-the-match Leon Legg started the rout. Ade Olurunda was fouled by Joseph on the Angel’s right some 10 yards inside the Ashford half, the ball was swung in left footed by Fraser Logan but looked to be going out for a goal kick until Scott Gooding volleyed the ball back across the face of the goal for Legg to head home.
A perfectly good tackle executed by Gavin Bamford, who took the ball cleanly, was penalised by referee Mr Lewis with Bamford cautioned for protesting before, in the 33rd minute, Tonbridge scored their second goal. Ashford keeper Craig Ross clearly thought the ball was going over the bar from Legg’s looping header and subsequently left it, but the ball crept in under the bar.
Five minutes later the home team found themselves three goals down. A poor pass by Ricky Wellard was intercepted by Anthony Storey who pushed the ball forward into the path of Olurunda and, while the Ashford defence stopped, claiming off-side, Olurunda carried on, drew Ross off his line and slipped the ball through his legs and into the net.
With the game effectively dead at half-time, Ashford made two substitutions, bringing off the ineffective Wellard and his midfield partner Paul Johnson and replacing them with Scott Todd and Wes Goggin.
Ashford’s woes were added to, ten minutes into the second half, when Olurunda was bought down in the penalty area with skipper Storey stepping up to hammer in the spot kick to make it 0 – 4.
Ashford pulled a goal back in the 57th minute. Neat footwork by Gavin Smith gave him room to play in Goggin who, in turn, helped the ball on for Warren Harris (pictured) to shoot home, via a deflection, from a tight angle.
This proved to be a minor irritation for Tonbridge who regained their four goal margin by way of a corner played deep to the Ashford far post where Legg was waiting to head home his side’s fifth and his own personal hattrick.
A sixth goal followed two minutes later, again from the penalty spot, where again, Storey clinically dispatched the ball past Ross and into the net. The reason for the penalty was lost on the writer and even the Tonbridge fans sitting next to him in the stands were baffled, not that they cared.
Wes Goggin spurned a chance to pull a second goal back for Ashford when the ball dropped to him following an aerial challenge with Lee Worgan, the Tonbridge keeper, by Smith but Goggin fired wide from 10 yards. But it was inevitable that Tonbridge would have the final say. Logan lined up to take a free kick 10 yards outside the Ashford penalty area and hit an unspectacular low shot past the wall and under the diving Ross for the Kent side’s seventh of the game.
With so many of his key players under-achieving it is no wonder the team has gone off the boil but Mark will have learnt lessons from last season and will be confident that his side can arrest the slide and start pushing forward again as in the immortal words of Jimmy Hill, “it’s a funny old game”, as was witnessed last season, a couple of good results to get the confidence back in the team does wonders and can give impetus to a successful run.