Ryman League Premier Division,
Jamie Lawrence made three changes to the team that went down at Aveley the previous Saturday, fit again Russ Canderton came into the centre of defence for Vinnie O’Sullivan, relegating the all-rounder to the bench, Brian Haule regained his place up front in place of Jones Awuah despite the Ghanaian international’s goal a week ago and an enforced change in midfield where Jamie England came in for skipper Paul Johnson who was a flu victim.
Two very welcome guests at the match were Councillor Caroline Spencer, the Mayor of Spelthorne and her husband Alan. Councillor Spencer was born in Battle, near Hastings and still has close personal ties with the area but was vocal in her support for the Tangerines on Saturday.
Ashford won the corresponding fixture last season by five goals to four and with the sides drawing four goals apiece at Hastings earlier in the season, another goal-fest was widely anticipated.
Hastings, playing with the wind at their backs in the first half had much the better of the possession but still turned round at halftime with a two goal deficit, a spirited fight back in the second half, however, saw them draw level only for their hosts to ensure a wretched journey home by scoring a late winner.
The first chance of the game fell to Ashford when, in the third minute, Femi Ilesanmi gained possession on the left and fed Scott Harris who bought the ball under control but shot wide then Ade Olorunda combined well with Russell Eldridge for the visitors but his shot suffered the same fate.
A strong run through the middle gave Harry Pell s shooting opportunity but Paul Burgess, in the Ashford goal, saved at the second attempt.
Hastings went close when Sean Ray directed his header just wide from Pell’s free kick and, soon after, Eldridge and Sam Adams exchanged passes before the latter fed Pell who wasted the opportunity, scuffing his shot well wide.
Steve Williams punched clear from a Jamie England free kick before Burgess was forced into action at the other end saving from the head of Steve Elliott.
Ashford took the lead, against the run of play it must be said, in the 40th minute. A determined attack, starting from the back, continued as Warren Harris played the ball through the legs of a defender to his brother Scott (pictured, celebrating scoring v Billericay) who took the ball in his stride and smashed his shot into the net at Williams near post.
Things looked even rosier for the home team just six minutes later. After Davis Haule had enthusiastically introduced himself to Hastings’s Michael Phillips leg, so much so that referee Mr Cook had asked for his name, Ilesanmi won the ball on the left and surged forward before picking out Warren Harris with a low cross. The younger Harris squared the ball to his elder sibling and he made no mistake in picking his spot to fire his side into a two goal half time advantage.
Five minutes into the second half Ilesanmi crossed to Warren Harris but Williams cleared at the second attempt but, shortly after, a cross from the Hastings left by Eldridge was turned into his own net by Joe McNerney to give the visitors some hope.
Hastings should have pulled back the deficit two minutes later, when a lobbed pass cleared the Ashford defence straight to Adams who contrived to miss the target from five yards.
Encouraged by the manager and that they were riding their luck a little, Ashford rallied and good work down both flanks tested the Hastings defence, while Scott Harris had a smartly taken snapshot on the turn gratefully held by Williams.
Hastings were gifted an equaliser in the 66th minute as a mix-up in the Ashford defence presented a golden opportunity to Olorunda which the Hastings striker gleefully accepted, tapping the ball into the empty Ashford net.
Jermaine McGlashan blazed a shot over Williams bar after a good run down the left wing then, at the other end, Burgess made a vital double save, the second while sitting on the ground, from Hastings substitute Ross Treleaven.
Ashford spurned a great opportunity to regain the lead when Ilesanmi found substitute Jones Awuah with an astute pass but the Ghanaian international shot wide.
A corner, in the 79th minute, was played by Warren Harris to the right side edge of the Hastings penalty area where Joe McNerney was loitering and the big central defender showed his class with a quality strike that flew across the goal and in at the far post.
Hastings threw everything at their opponents as they saw the game going away from them, ensuring an uncomfortable last ten minutes for the small but loyal band of Ashford supporters until the three shrill blasts from Mr Cook’s whistle bought their suffering to a close.
Before this match Hastings were 4th in the Ryman Premier League so this win should give the Ashford side a great deal of confidence as they head off to Kingstonian on Monday evening.
After the game Councillor Spencer was presented with a match ball signed by the home team to be auctioned with the proceeds going to her Mayor’s charities, One to One a friendship scheme in Spelthorne for people with learning difficulties, and Guiding in Spelthorne, to support the work of the local Brownies and Guiding communities in their efforts to develop skills and encourage a sense of responsibility to others whilst having fun, all at Ashford Town Football Club wish her well in her endeavours.