Evo-Stik League Southern Division One Central
Whatever the young Ashford team assembled by rookie management duo Paul Burgess and Steve Battams go on to achieve this season, they will surely not endure another match quite like this raucous, frenetic local derby.In the first half, Ashford survived a spell of strong pressure to establish what looked like an unassailable lead, only for their visitors to make light of both a three goal deficit and the dismissal of their goalkeeper to come agonisingly close to securing a point.
Ashford came into this match having won two out of their opening three matches by 3-2, while Chertsey had conceded five goals at home to Slough Town at the weekend, so an open game was always likely, although no-one would have predicted the incredible entertainment served up by these two teams.
The Ash Trees got off to a superb start, with livewire striker Dan Brown taking advantage of a superb cross from Kiri Takahiro to head his team into a seventh minute lead. However, Chertsey hit back strongly and dominated the match for fifteen minutes, with Paul McCarthy tested several times, not least by a 21st minute free kick. Although the home ‘keeper kept the Curfews at bay initially, a goalmouth scramble ensued and Daniel Bennett eventually forced the ball into the net.
Within five minutes, Ashford were back in front, thanks to a lovely finish by Scott Weight, who controlled a half-cleared corner and guided a 20 yard shot into the top corner of the net. The home side were dominant by now and were given a chance to extend their lead in the 40th minute when Paladino was brought down in the process of rounding visiting goalkeeper Phil Carpenter, who was dismissed. Tom Kanek fired the subsequent penalty past substitute stopper Mark Shipperley.
With the watch ticking towards 45 minutes and Chertsey in disarray, Dan Brown added a fourth goal for Ashford by shooting across the goalkeeper.
Half time gave the Curfews an opportunity to regroup and they emerged for the second half having altered their formation and a purposeful attitude and Ashford found themselves pinned back. Chertsey pulled a goal back in the 58th minute when an Oliver Burgess shot eluded the dive of Paul McCarthy.
Ashford then used their extra man to hit their guests on the counter-attack, with Pietro Paladino finishing a rapid move by shooting across Shipperley.
This failed to subdue Chertsey and Daniel Bennett breached the home offside trap, only to hit the post with McCarthy beaten. However, the confident midfielder scored his side’s third goal in the 78th minute, lashing the ball into the top corner.
With five minutes to go, the Curfews pulled another goal back when what looked to be a “50/50” tangle between Russell Canderton and a forward was deemed to be a foul by the Ashford skipper. Full-back Tommy McGarry blasted the penalty into the net and suddenly, the visitors believed they could leave the Robert Parker Stadium with a point. Despite being rattled by their guests, Ashford continued to press forward and good work from substitute Mark Bitmead created an opportunity for Paladino, whose shot was well saved by Shipperley.
That was the final change of an absorbing game, in which both teams played a full part. While Chertsey deserve full credit for their stirring fightback, Ashford will be delighted with the win which lifts them to second in the early-season table. The first half performance, in particular, suggests that this group of players will bring a lot of excitement to matches this season.