Ashford Town (Middlesex)


Cray Wanderers


Ryman League Premier Division,
Short Lane Stadium
21st November 2009

Ashford entertained the world’s second oldest club, Cray Wanderers, on Saturday with the Kent side making their first ever visit to Short Lane. Promoted last season, Cray are finding life in the Ryman Premier League a whole lot different to the barn-storming previous season, having recorded just three victories so far this term, a statistic that sees them in the relegation zone with just Billericay and Bognor below them.

Ashford bossed the early encounters without really troubling Jack Smelt, the Cray custodian, while the visitors, themselves, had a good shout for a penalty waved away by referee Mr Lugg, 16 minutes into the game, as ball to hand.

A cross from the left by Ricardo Joseph was met by Byron Harrison, soon after, and his looping header nearly crept in under Smelt’s bar before Cray were forced to introduce Lewis Wood to the fray after Leigh Bremner succumbed to an injury to his lower back.

Ashford’s pressure started to pay dividends when, in the 33rd minute, Harrison was bought down by Tommy Tyne. Warren Harris swung in a teasing free kick for Brian Haule to get the slightest of touches with his head to send the ball wide of the diving Smelt to give his side a deserved lead.

A shot from Cray’s Rob Quinn soared over the Ashford bar before, in the 39th minute, the home side doubled their lead. A through ball meant for Warren Harris was over hit but was deflected into the winger’s path by a defender leaving Harris one on one with Smelt. Harris coolly disguised his shot well to send Smelt the wrong way as he tucked the ball in at the near post.

The lively Wood brothers, Jamie and Lewis combined well, soon after, but the latter’s shot was well taken by Ashford keeper Craig Ross then the hosts had two chances late in the half, a Brian Haule shot was charged down with the ball falling to Scott Weight who lifted his shot, from the edge of the box, over Smelt’s bar, then Smelt saved a low shot from Harrison after good work from Guy Hollis and Weight.

Cray were a much improved side in the second half illustrated early on when a goal-bound effort from Lewis Wood was deflected narrowly past Ross’ right hand post, John Guest then fired over the Ashford bar from close range and Quinn screwed a shot wide.

Ashford, too, had chances. One, notably, when the excellent Russ Canderton broke up a promising Cray attack before slipping the ball right to Brett Cooper who wasted no time in charging up the flank and squaring to Paul Johnson for the Ashford skipper to fire a low shot that Smelt safely clutched.

Another good break by Ashford culminated in Harrison shrugging off the attentions of Lewis Wood and Tyne as he made a mazy run toward the Cray penalty area, and only a superbly timed tackle from John Guest stopped the Ashford striker from threatening Smelt’s goal.

The game was made safe for Ashford in the 75th minute, and, it must be said, against the run of play, when Guest headed past his keeper from an acute angle from a Johnson corner for the first own goal of the season at Short Lane.

Ashford manager Jamie Lawrence gave late run outs to Scott Harris, Mal Bulley and Jon Palmer in place of Brian Haule Harrison and Johnson in between two tremendous efforts from Cray substitute Tyrone Sterling that whistled narrowly wide and high respectively.

Bulley, after good build up play from Scott Harris and Palmer, had a decent shot saved by Smelt before Mr Lugg bought the proceedings to a close.

Three much needed points for Ashford with three goals scored and, just as importantly, a clean sheet recorded to help improve the club’s goal difference.