Ryman League Premier Division,
A Byron Harrison goal, his fifth in two games, was enough to ensure that all three points went back to Short Lane in this wind affected match. Ashford had remained goal-less in each of their previous encounters with Billericay at the New Lodge, with just one point being secured in that time.
Mark Butler added Tommy Williams, on loan from Kingstonians, to the squad as well as 17 year old Mark Bitmead, a prolific goal-scorer in the under 18 side, both of whom started on the bench, as the Ashford manager kept faith with the same starting line-up that so comprehensively demolished Badshot Lea the previous Saturday in the FA Cup.
As the wind swirled around the New Lodge stadium the first chance of the game fell to Billericay’s Billy Bricknell whose good effort was foiled by the feet of Craig Ross in the Ashford goal, but the visitors soon hit back with a long ball by Hone Fowler looking for the unmarked Brian Haule which Greg Oates just got his head to, to avert the danger.
Ian Cousins went close for the home side before Brian Haule found Ivo Ginev with a good cross-field pass but the Bulgarian winger’s weak shot was easily dealt with by the Billericay custodian Andy Walker.
Davis Haule just failed to reach Warren Harris with a cross and, with the move breaking down, Jamie Dormer accelerated into the Ashford half before releasing Chris Sullivan on the right, but his poor cross-come-shot caused Ross no problems, then, following a mazy run, Ginev fired a powerful shot narrowly wide.
Brian Haule demonstrated the art of the shot on the turn, as Ashford put on the pressure, but Walker was perfectly placed to gather the ball but, soon after, in the 30th minute, he was beaten for the only goal of the game as Billy Jeffreys found Brian Haule who, under pressure, played in his strike partner Byron Harrison (pictured) and he made no mistake as he shot across the keeper to find the back of the net at the far post.
The hosts had a chance to regain parity seven minutes later when the ball was cleared to Sullivan who tore down his right wing but, unfortunately for his team, none of his colleagues had managed to keep up and the chance was wasted.
Billericay were enjoying applying pressure of their own in the later stages of the first half as they desperately sought the equaliser and should have done better when Michael Shinn’s free kick, for a foul on Sullivan, was headed back into the danger area by Dormer only to be fired wide by Dave Wareham.
The home team had the slight advantage of the wind that seemed to have increased in intensity during the half time break but was still unsure of what direction to blow in, and had more of the possession but Jeffreys and Russ Canderton defended stoutly. Canderton produced a top class defensive diving header to deny James Baker from Wareham’s cross before the Ashford centre back was cautioned for a clumsy challenge on Baker.
The visitors had the ball in the back of their hosts net, courtesy of Brian Haule, for the second time, in the 64th minute, but referee Mr. Kaye, who had a very good game, bought the play back for a previous infringement, awarding a free kick to Billericay.
Billericay continued pressing and a Sullivan shot sailed wide before Vinnie O’Sullivan made ground to make a superb covering interception to keep out Baker. Billericay’s cause was not helped when, in the 72nd minute, Dormer was cautioned for simulation, his second yellow card of the game and he was summarily dismissed.
Ashford should have doubled their lead on 74 minutes when Brian Haule was beaten to the ball from Johnson’s corner, the ball travelling as far as Harris whose shot on the turn was blocked and fell at the feet of Harrison who blasted his shot over Walker’s bar from close range then, moments later, Harrison broke free on the left, cut inside and, whilst off balance, shot against the Billericay keeper but could not direct the rebound into the net from his position laying on the turf.
Tommy Williams, on for Ginev, showed his eye for the astute pass when he found Harris cutting in from the left but the young winger’s shot was blocked then, as the game drew to a close, Harris threatened once again but good defending by Russell Pond kept the score line down to one.