Ryman League Premier Division,
It is fortunate that Ashford had the fantastic start to the season that they did, winning six out of six matches, because in the ten league games since, they have recorded just three more. Nine points out of a total of thirty is a very disappointing return for such a group of talented individuals and leaves Mark Butler pondering the reasons why.
Against Maidstone, seven days previously, Ashford completely outplayed their hosts then committed football suicide but against Ramsgate they cannot even lay claim to that dubious honour. Ramsgate were frequently first to the ball in any breakdowns, won more tackles than Ashford, were sharper all round and had shots on target, the latter something that their hosts cannot claim until Gavin Smith emerged from the bench.
For the first 15 minutes the game went from end to end with few chances afforded to either team, the closest falling to Ashford when Byron Harrison latched on to a poor clearance by Ramsgate keeper Jack Delo. Harrison did well creating enough space to send over a searching cross from the left which Nick Davis was forced to head behind for a corner as Scott Harris menaced.
A free kick on the Ramsgate right, in the 23rd minute, was swung in by Steffan Ball and cleared only as far as the edge of the Ashford penalty box where the ball was played back in to where Jay May, clearly in an off-side position, headed past Paul Burgess. Seeing no flag raised, referee Mr Lymer awarded the ‘goal’.
Stung by what was perceived as a injustice, Ashford tried to force their visitors back and were a little unfortunate when good work from Harrison went unrewarded, his cross to Scott Harris being intercepted by Tom Wynter who headed behind for a corner then, Brett Cooper and skipper Gavin Bamford combined for the latter to cross but again no Ashford player was on hand to take advantage.
Bamford played in Warren Harris, shortly after, with a superb cross-field pass allowing the young winger to embark on a mazy run before giving the ball back to his skipper whose cross was headed wide by Harrison.
Ben Brown looked lively for the visitors, who certainly did not play like a side second from bottom, he concluded a good run with a tidy shot that Burgess had to be alive to shortly before half time.
Ashford upped the tempo for the start of the second half but Ball had the first chance on goal for the visitors, forcing a smart save from Burgess with a snap-shot, then a great run and cross by Ricardo Joseph, at the other end, flashed across the face of Delo’s goal as Scott Harris slid in.
The visitors had a golden opportunity to double their lead when Brown, finding himself faced by just one defender, elected to shoot rather than play in Ball who was unmarked to his right, Brown’s shot bounced harmlessly wide of Burgess’ right hand post.
Mark Butler bought all three of his substitutes on at the same time on the hour. Vinnie O’Sullivan, Paul Johnson and Gavin Smith replacing Cooper, Adam Logie and Scott Harris, in an effort to claw back the deficit. Johnson was into the game quickly, being unfairly bought down 5 yards outside the Ramsgate penalty box, but he fired his free kick high over Delo’s bar.
Ashford did manager to get the ball into the back of the Ramsgate net in the 69th minute when Warren Harris cut inside from the left and let fly, his shot was blocked but the rebounded ball was rammed past Delo by Smith, whose celebrations were cut short by the raised flag from one of the officials indicating off-side.
Ramsgate scored their second a little against the run of play, in the 74th minute when Ryan Royston fired a speculative shot through a crowd of players and past the unsighted Burgess.
The killer goal came just six minutes later when a long ball out of defence found Ball on the Ramsgate right and, with the Ashford defence awol, crossed for May to fire home his second of the game.