Zamaretto League Central Division
Ashford’s Jekyll and Hyde season continued here on Saturday afternoon against Arlesey Town, as Forrest Gump once famously observed, “Ashford are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get until you open the wrapper”. After last week’s demolition of league leaders Hitchin Town, Jamie Lawrence’s men fell victim to Arlesey’s more direct long ball game.
That is to take nothing away from the visitors, they have a reasonable chance of winning the league while Ashford are mid-table, unlikely to go down but not going to make the play-offs and it showed. Arlesey, desperate to grab as many points as they can to keep on the coat-tails of Hitchin and Daventry, were sharper to react, more lively around the park and with a skipper like Derek Brown urging his men on, sometimes with a threat of physical violence attached, looked as if they wanted the points more than their hosts to the obvious chagrin of the Ashford manager.
For the first half hour the teams were neck and neck and the match could have gone either way but after Arlesey had finally got their noses in front there was only one team looking likely to win.
Early in the match Isaiah Rankin had exchanged passes with Tom Kanek before forcing the visitor’s keeper Richard Hayward to smother his close range shot but the home side hardly created another meaningful chance until the half hour mark.
The game was stopped for 6 minutes while Arlesey right back Cameron Mawer received treatment to his damaged nose, why referee Mr Foley did not invite him to leave the pitch to have the blood stemmed only he knows, one of many strange decisions made by the man in black.
Lee Allinson’s dead ball kicks were proving difficult to defend against, notably his aggressively hit corners, Chris Marsh and Dave Deeney both spurned the chance to open the scoring in the visitor’s favour by not hitting the target with free headers and Marsh should have scored when a long ball out of defence was met by the Arlesey striker who lobbed Paul McCarthy only to see the ball clearing McCarthy’s bar.
A well worked corner very nearly paid off for Ashford on the half hour, one we have seen before executed successfully, but on this occasion Jordan Kiffin’s short corner involving Jones Awuah, Rankin and Kanek failed when Kanek scuffed his shot.
An excellent tackle by Kanek was penalised by referee Foley who was nowhere near the incident but his assistant was and he did not flag then Christian Nanetti was cautioned for an innocuous push on an Arlesey defender before Oscar Lubwama rolled the ball into the path of Nanetti, on the right, who took one step and fired a powerful curling shot with his left foot that was rocketing towards the top corner of the Visitor’s net only for Hayward to produce a tremendous flying fingertip save to tip the ball over his bar for a corner.
Five minutes into time added on for the injury to Mawer, Derek Brown won the ball off of Rankin and sent Aston Goss away and the winger found time and space to shoot low past McCarthy to give Arlesey a half time advantage.
Early in the second half McCarthy came to the rescue saving at point blank range from Dillon from a Marsh cross then, on the hour, the big Ashford keeper had to react smartly to save a low shot from Goss.
Arlesey’s second goal came in the 68th minute when Allinson capped a good personal performance by firing in off McCarthy’s left hand post.
After a couple of chances for the home side where Nanetti figured prominently, the visitor’s made the game safe by scoring the all important third goal of the game. A cross/shot looped over McCarthy but came back off the post, Dave Deeney reacted the quickest and shot into the empty net.
Late appeals for a penalty when Nanetti was bought down on the line of the penalty area were ignored by the referee and a free kick given instead but substitute Jamie Lawrence’s free kick went harmlessly out for a goal kick.
This season has produced more twists and turns than Hampton Court maze and, I’m willing to wager Alan Constable’s house, there will be even more in the concluding 4 weeks of the season, such is the excitement of being an Ashford Town supporter.