Zamaretto League, Central Division
Ashford’s final fixture of, to say the least, an up and down season saw them visit local rivals Bedfont Town for an entertaining Middlesex derby. The small but vociferous band of supporters behind the goal, ably conducted by the official Ashford Town club lout Mark Davis, cheered and sang themselves hoarse in the hot sunshine before deservedly reviving their tonsils with copious amounts of lager after the game.
With nothing but local bragging rights to play for the visitors were surprised by the opening attack from Bedfont where, with just 33 seconds on the clock, Wayne O’Sullivan rounded Ashford right back Joe Green and pulled the ball back for Louie Dennis to poke it past Paul McCarthy to give his side the lead.
Shortly after, a good save by McCarthy denied O’Sullivan then a mix up in the Bedfont defence gave the visitors the equaliser. Matt O’Brien and his goal keeper Gary Ross confused each other allowing Ashford player/manager Jamie Lawrence the opportunity to nip in and gleefully side-foot the ball into the empty net.
Bedfont, six places and nineteen points above their visitors, pushed up with Dennis looking very dangerous up front and McCarthy had to react swiftly to palm away a low drive from the Bedfont number nine that he only saw at the last moment before, in the twenty-fourth minute Ashford took the lead. A tricky run by man-of-match Christian Nanetti took him deep into the opposition half where he played in Isaiah Rankin who shot past Ross.
The powerful Rankin embarked on a run that took him at least half the length of the pitch and past five opponents but, as he attempted to round Ross, the Bedfont keeper got a vital touch allowing a defender to complete the clearance.
Ashford surrendered another soft goal just after, a through ball found Dennis who slipped his marker and gave McCarthy no chance as he equalised for the hosts, but parity lasted for just one minute as Nanetti, almost unplayable, regained the lead himself when another long mazy run carried him to within striking distance of the Bedfont goal and, with the keeper expecting a cross, he caught Ross out by firing the ball into the back of the net.
Spencer Taffurelli nodded a high ball into the path of Nanetti shortly after and the diminutive Italian cut inside Joseph Ataro before squaring across the penalty area to Rankin whose fizzing shot was beaten away by Ross then, in time added on, former Ashford stalwart Ryan Lake, was cautioned for a late challenge on Nanetti.
Early in the second half Nanetti switched wings and, in the 51st minute, combined well with Taffurelli before reaching the goal-line and sending in a low right footed cross that Rankin converted for his second goal of the game and his teams fourth and only a tremendous save by Ross, shortly after, prevented the former Arsenal and Bradford City striker from claiming a deserved hattrick when he turned and, despite being held back by a defender, managed to send another powerful effort goalwards.
Taffurelli, who had worked hard all match, managed to wriggle into the Bedfont penalty area where his shot was saved by Ross but, in the meantime, young midfielder Max Webb had made a good run into the penalty area as well where he was bought down. Nanetti dispatched the consequent penalty kick to put the match out of Bedfont’s reach.
Bedfont substitute Lee Scott reminded Ashford that the game was still on when he tested McCarthy twice after sprinting clear of the visitors’ defence but the big Ashford keeper was equal to the task.
Jamie Lawrence left the field in the 78th minute to rapturous applause from both factions to be replaced by the very promising Connor Moody. Meanwhile, the Ashford choir behind the goal amused themselves by chanting the names of the Ashford committee, demanding, and getting, a wave from each.
Fun in the sun for Ashford in a match well refereed by Mr Tweed (not just because we won) who brooked no nonsense but dealt with whatever came his way calmly and sensibly.