Zamaretto League, Central Division
Rarely did Ashford threaten Richard Hayward’s goal in this match despite having the experience of both Jamie Lawrence and Isaiah Rankin up front. It did not help the cause when, after 24 minutes, the Middlesex side found themselves down to ten men following two ridiculous challenges from Luke Hickie in the same amount of minutes. Notwithstanding that, Ashford produced their worst display of the season, so far, with too many passes going astray and the failure to put away any of the chances that they managed to fabricate.
There was four enforced changes to the side that defeated Aylesbury two weeks previous, three down to injury, Jim Mann in at right back for Oscar Lubwama, Alain Behi resigned and in in place of Scott Weight while Akwasi Edusei patrolled the left flank in place of top scorer Jones Awuah. Russ Canderton came in to the side in the centre of defence in place of Guy Hollis, the latest to desert in favour of Carshalton Athletic.
The visitors started slowly giving away a dangerous free kick in the first minute that Marc Leach sent goalwards but Ashford keeper Paul Burgess pushed the ball over for a corner and for the next 15 minutes, apart from a couple of sporadic forays into the Arlesey half, Ashford were forced to defend. During that time Edusei came closest to opening the scoring when he jinked goalwards, after latching on to a square ball by Hickie, before firing narrowly past the far post with Hayword beaten.
Paul Burgess made two excellent stops in the space of 5 minutes to deny first, Alex O’Brien after good work from Joel Mason and then a stunning full length diving save to claw the ball out after O’Brien had been picked out from an Arlesey free kick.
Referee Piggott seemed to have trouble with his whistle during this match, for the majority of the time it only blew if Ashford contravened the laws. Edusei was blatently pulled down just outside the Arlesey penalty box, in the 13th minute but Mr Piggott saw nothing wrong in that, but immediately after, Jim Mann effected a similar situation at the other end which bought instant retribution.
The referee could not be blamed, though, for the rush of blood that came to Luke Hickie in the 22nd minute. Hickie had tracked back to cover the run of fellow number 8 Adam Watkins and, with the Arlesey midfielder going nowhere, sliced him down from behind to rightly earn a caution from Mr Piggott. Two minutes later, with Nyasha Sagwete on the ball, Hickie enthusiastically ran some 15 yards to launch into a challenge that was both high and late and, again, received a yellow card, closely followed by a red. I am glad to be able to report though that following lots of rolling around on the turf, both Watkins and Sagwete jumped up and were able to participate further seemingly none the worse for wear.
Ashford had a chance on the half hour following a foul on Jamie Lawrence, but, taking the free kick himself, he blasted over Hayward’s bar from 20 yards out. Then shortly after, the unusually subdued Jordan Kiffin had a free kick punched away by the Arlesey custodian.
Hayword came to the rescue on 35 minutes blocking a shot from Edusei after Billy Jeffreys had played him in then, as the half drew to its conclusion, Watkins had two further chances, one he fired over and the other forced another superb save from Burgess at the cost of a corner.
Chris Marsh, although right footed was playing on the left wing, sought to cut inside on nearly every occasion, had two shots in the 55th minute, one failed to hit the target while the other was blocked but inevitably the pressure told and Arlesey took the lead. Clever work by Stuart Sinclair on the Arlesey right gave him room to slide the ball into the path of Joel Mason who screwed his shot across Burgess and in at the far post.
The ten men of Ashford looked to hit back as Edusei fired over after a long throw from Russ Canderton then Mann sent Isaiah Rankin forward with a good ball down the right flank but good defending from Nick Leach snuffed out the danger.
The visitors spurned a golden opportunity to gain parity with 20 minutes to go. A move started on the right by Mann culminated in Rankin finding Edusei but the Ashford left winger got under his shot and fired high from just inside the host’s penalty area.
Arlesey killed off the game in the 89th minute. With Ashford pushing up, a quick break saw Marsh play a one-two with Watkins before hitting a low drive past Burgess to ensure there was no way back for Ashford.