Ryman League Premier Division,
Seven goals for the home side and a sending off apiece gave us all a lot to talk about after the final whistle. Newly promoted Tooting & Mitcham United were unfortunate that they met an Ashford side in such rampant mood, but they played their part in an exciting match. Three wins in three games and a goal difference of + 9 sees Ashford sitting on top of the Ryman Premier League for the first time in their history and, with six different scorers, it seems that goals are possible from all areas.
The score might have been even greater had referee Mr Field awarded the penalty claimed in the first minute when Warren Harris sped round his marker and crossed to where brother Scott was arriving. The elder Harris though was bought down but Mr Field was unimpressed and waved play-on.
A shot from former Ashford striker Jon Henry-Hayden flew over Paul Burgess’ bar shortly before Ashford took the lead, a long throw on the right, in the eighth minute, by Adam Logie was helped on to skipper Paul Johnson who tapped the ball home at the far post.
A good passage of play by the visitors ended with Paul Vines shooting over, then Vines was sent clear by an astute pass from Colin Hartburn but an immaculately executed tackle by Billy Jeffreys cleared the danger. Hartburn hit another good ball forward, this time to substitute Dave Stevens, on for the injured Henry-Hayden, but Ricardo Joseph snuffed out the threat.
Ashford enjoyed a good period of pressure midway through the half with several players having attempts either saved or off target until, in the 28th minute, they increased their lead. A long ball out of defence was nodded on by Scott Harris with Byron Harrison threatening and while the defenders eyes were on him Warren Harris nipped in to slide the ball past the unfortunate Laurie Walker at the far post.
Warren Harris had another good chance shortly after following a good move involving Harrison, Ricky Wellard, Logie and Scott Harris but he shot wide then Joseph found Harrison with a fine pass down the left that left the striker in the clear but his weak shot was picked up by Walker with Johnson standing unmarked in a better shooting position.
Tooting, at times, showed neat touches on the ball and a willingness to play good football but lacked a cutting edge, Ashford’s back four of Vinnie O’Sullivan (pictured), Billy Jeffreys, Stuart Bamford and Ricardo Joseph and the holding midfielder Adam Logie managed to deal with the visitors’ attacks thereby severely limiting their options.
The always vital third goal was scored in the 45th minute and it went to Ashford. A short free kick, from the left hand side of the Tooting penalty box, was played in to the feet of Johnson by Wellard, Johnson’s shot was blocked but Logie was on hand to put in the rebound to pretty much kill off the game.
Early in the second half Walker was obliged to pull off a good save from the head of Scott Harris but Ashford were not to be denied and, in the 52nd minute, a move started by Wellard and involving Johnson and Joseph gave Harrison the chance to put his side four goals to the good, an invitation he accepted with aplomb by smashing a stunning half-volley past Walker at the near post from Joseph’s left wing cross.
Five minutes later it was five. Scott Harris chased a long ball into the Tooting penalty area intent on flicking the ball up but it hit Oliver Hunt’s arm and Mr Field immediately pointed to the spot. Wellard stepped up and dispatched his ferocious left footed spot kick past Walker’s left hand. Barely had the Ashford supporters finished celebrating goal number five when Harrison claimed his second of the match and his sides sixth. Joseph and Stuart Bamford combined on the left and fed Scott Harris who turned the ball inside to his strike partner Harrison. The rangy striker rounded Walker and coolly tucked the ball into the empty net for his fourth goal in three games.
To their credit, Tooting still tried to play passing football and came close to clawing back a goal when Stevens shot was cleared off the line by Bamford but frustration was showing on one or two of the Tooting players that manifested itself in a spot of nonsense late in the game. Joe Vines objected to a late tackle on himself by Ashford substitute Gavin Smith and reacted violently by engaging Smith in a head lock while they grappled on the turf. Logie, in an attempt to dislodge the irate defender from his team-mate, threw the ball at Vines but, such are his skills at throwing, missed. After order had been restored Vines took the early walk to the dressing room for, I assume, violent play and Logie followed. Smith was shown the yellow card and had the last laugh when, in the 91st minute, he climbed above the Tooting defence to convert Harrison’s cross from the left with a trademark header at the far post.
Mark Butler was delighted at the outcome and justifiably proud of his team but counselled caution to those supporters getting carried away at this early stage of the season