FA Cup Sponsored by E.ON, 3rd Qualifying Round,
Ashford travelled to Vale Farm, Wembley, where Hendon ground share with Wembley FC, for this FA Cup fixture. The previous meeting between the sides, at Short Lane in August, produced a close match with a goal apiece and there was nothing to suggest that this match would be any different.
With Billy Jeffreys suspended for this match, Mark Butler had no hesitation in selecting the highly rated young defender Guy Hollis to take his place along side Russ Canderton in the centre of defence and, apart from that change, the side was the same that took all three points at Billericay the previous Saturday.
The visitors started well and nearly took an early lead when a free kick taken by Warren Harris was flicked on by Byron Harrison and headed just over James Reading’s bar by former Hendon striker Brian Haule. Haule was one of three of the Ashford team playing against his former club, brother Davis and skipper Paul Johnson being the others.
Ashford were denied a strong goal scoring chance, in the fourth minute, by an atrocious and disgraceful refereeing decision. Byron Harrison was fouled as he skipped past three tackles before finding Ivo Ginev who was racing in from the left and was completely in the clear with only Reading to beat. Referee Quelch allowed play to go on until Ginev received the ball then stopped the game and gave a free kick to Ashford for the original foul causing frustration to players and supporters alike.
Both teams were looking to play good football and the play alternated from end to end without causing either goal keeper any real problems until a good passage of play culminated in an exchange of passes between the Haule brothers with Brian’s shot being deflected out to Harrison who took one touch to control the ball before firing just over the Hendon bar from the edge of the box.
Lubo Guentchev, on the Hendon right, looked in a lively mood from the kick off and he was making sure that Hone Fowler knew he was in a game with his smart running off the ball and clever use of space and it was he that created a good chance for Danny Dyer who shot wide from 20 yards.
As the half hour mark approached, Harrison ran on to a superbly weighted pass over the top of the Hendon defence from Vinnie O’Sullivan but Reading had anticipated the pass so that Harrison could only shoot against the keeper’s legs, Harrison retained possession but, again, Reading was in the way and the ball rolled into the path of Brian Haule who curled his shot just beyond the far post.
A free kick for a foul on Guentchev forced two corners in quick succession for the hosts, as they enjoyed a period of domination, but Canderton and Hollis were in no mood to surrender goals and they cleared their lines.
Mr Quelch frustrated the Ashford contingent again in the 33rd minute when he failed to acknowledge a blatant handball by Hendon’s Pat O’Donnell, waving away the strong appeals for a penalty. Davis Haule had found Harris on the right and it was his accurate cross that had caused mayhem in the penalty box with O’Donnell handling in full view of Quelch and his assistant.
A long shot from Lewis Ochoa fizzed wide of Craig Ross’ goal just before Hendon enjoyed their best move of the half. Glen Garner ran on to a good ball out of defence and set off on a strong run before rolling the ball into the feet of Wayne O’Sullivan who connected with his shot perhaps too well and fired straight into the arms of Ross.
Early in the second half, Harris bravely denied Guentchev from a corner but injured himself in the process and was carried off to be replaced by Tommy Williams who was straight into the game curling in a free kick for a foul on Brian Haule with his first kick of the game.
A late challenge on Russ Canderton earned Garner a caution before the visitors spurned probably their best chance of the match. Johnson ran onto another tremendous ball from Vinnie O’Sullivan that beat the off-side trap but shot straight at Reading from 15 yards.
Hendon had their best chance of the match shortly after. Wayne O’Sullivan embarked on an excellent run down the right leaving most of the Ashford defence in his wake, as Ross came out to narrow the angle the former Stevenage midfielder coolly chipped the ball over the Ashford keeper but, fortunately for his side, Canderton had managed to get back to head off his goal line to safety.
The save of the match came with just 6 minutes left on the clock, Dyer let fly a vicious drive from 35 yards forcing a spectacular full length diving save out of Craig Ross to fingertip the ball over for a corner.
This was a good old fashioned cup tie played between two footballing sides and a draw was probably the fairest result, we look forward to the sequel on Tuesday at Short Lane where their must be a winner.