Evo-Stik League Southern Division One Central,
Ashford Town (Middlesex) completed the “double” over Leighton Town with a win that was more comfortable than the scoreline suggests. Following the departure of Kiri Takahiro, Paul Burgess moved Ed Thomas into the left-back position, with his customary place in midfield assumed by the returning Alex Duffy.
The home side asserted themselves from the beginning and Ashley Lodge had an early sight of goal before the Ash Trees took a 12th minute lead. A rapid move forward saw Dan Brown advance on the Leighton goal, then slide a pass to Mark Bitmead, whose shot across the goalkeeper nestled in the far corner of the net.
While the visitors were having to defend doggedly, they were not without attacking ambition and forced two corners in quick succession in the 20th minute, although the Ashford defence were able to work the ball away. An Ashford corner in the 28th minute saw Jim Mann impeded by Leighton goalkeeper Haydn Dodge, although referee Penfold saw nothing wrong with the challenge.
That set piece was followed by a series of corners for the Ash Trees, although nothing came of them.
Four minutes before half-time, a superb arced run by Leighton midfielder Jake Bewley saw his shot on goal hit McCarthy’s post and while the rebound fell to his team-mate Enzo Silvestri, the subsequent strike sailed well over the crossbar.
Ashford striker Kofi-Lockhart Adams made a bustling start to the second half, but failed to test Dodge and was duly substituted just after the hour. His replacement, Pietro Palladino, almost scored with his first touch but his delicate chip cleared both the goalkeeper and the crossbar.
Ross Hanley had a shot deflected wide of the Ashford goal in the 64th minute and this was the beginning of a short spell of concerted pressure, although the home defence dealt with the Leighton attacks well.
Youngster Perry Luckins replaced Alex Duffy in the 71st minute and twice went agonisingly close to scoring for his team, with his second shot forcing a fantastic save from Dodge.
As the game moved towards its conclusion, referee Penfold mystified the assembled spectators when he chose to harshly caution Ashford substitute Jack Mullan for his first foul of the game, yet seconds later kept his cards in his pocket when Pietro Palladino was sent flying by a cynical, late challenge. Palladino’s injury time response was to head just wide of the goal in stoppage time, after the impressive Luckins had sent in a pinpoint cross.
With that, Ashford secured a precious three points and will go into the away local derby at Uxbridge in good heart.