Blues too sharp for Tangerines
Zamaretto League, Central Division
Ashford’s visit to Marlow on Saturday re-united the Middlesex club with one of its most popular former players, Steve Croxford, now assistant manager at the club where he finished his playing career.
Jamie Lawrence was forced into two changes to the team that comprehensively dismantled AFC Hayes the previous Monday, Paul Burgess replacing Lee Pearce in goal, although the knee injury suffered by Lee in the Hayes game is not as serious as first thought, while club skipper Billy Jeffreys returned from injury to the starting line up alongside Jim Mann at the centre of defence, Russ Canderton moving sideways to the right back slot vacated by the injured Guy Hollis who is suffering from tendonitis.
Marlow got off to the best possible start, punishing a lapse in concentration in the Ashford defence following a corner with just two minutes gone, the unmarked Tom Willment heading past Paul Burgess from close range at the far post.
A free kick for a foul on Lawrence, taken by the same player, cannoned off the Marlow defensive wall before the home side’s Jermaine Roche executed an entertaining if not outrageous simulation in the Ashford penalty area for which he should have been cautioned or at least signed up for the olympics.
A throw from Canderton was controlled by Lawrence and played back into the path of Jordan Kiffin, soon after, but the Ashford midfielder fired over Michael Watkins bar then, in the 13th minute, a superb move involving notably Luke Hickie and Jamie Lawrence and it was the latter who played the ball over the Marlow defence for Kiffin to run on to and lift the ball over the onrushing Watkins for the equaliser and to add to his personal tally of three in the last two games.
A minute later the visitors had a good opportunity to go ahead themselves but Jones Awuah lifted his shot over Watkins bar after being put through by Kiffin then, at the other end, a mistake at the back presented Marlow with a chance but Marcus Mealing shot wide.
A free kick on the edge of the Marlow penalty area followed a foul on Awuah but the ball was cleared back into the Ashford half where they found themselves with just two defenders as five Marlow attacker bore down upon them and it took a superbly timed tackle from Rico Morris to clear the danger.
Just prior to the half time whistle, Kane Louis tried a shot from range but never really got hold of it and Lawrence headed over from a Kiffin corner.
Ashford had enjoyed the better of the play in the first half but Marlow looked a different side in the second period as they came out determined to take all three points, pushing the visitors back for the first ten minutes where shots from Mealing and Roche were blocked and Willment shot wide from a free kick, given for a foul on Aaron Couch for which Jim Mann was cautioned.
On the hour, Kiffin set off on a run down the right but his cross was put out for a corner which Awuah headed wide then, minutes later, the ball was played out of the Marlow defence to Mealing who sprinted towards the Ashford goal but Jeffreys caught him and cleared the ball with a precisely timed tackle.
Marlow were still dictating the play but Ashford looked dangerous on the break, one of which instigated by Canderton and carried on by Kiffin, resulted in Hickie having a vicious effort blocked but it was the home side who struck the killer blow. The ball was laid out to the right to Leigh Mason, in the 79th minute, who rounded Morris before sliding the ball into the path of the unmarked Gavin Lane who crashed the ball past Paul Burgess giving the Ashford Keeper no chance.
Ashford still had a great chance to get at least a draw out of the game when, two minutes later, substitute Mark Bitmead was put through by Awuah but the young striker couldn’t replicate his feat of the following Saturday and Watkins stuck out an arm to deflect the ball wide.
A thunderous Willment free kick screamed narrowly wide of Burgess’ goal from fully 40 yards before Marlow decided that the best way to protect their narrow lead was to obsessively take the ball into the corners to waste time, unfortunately this lured a frustrated Hickie into launching into a rash challenge for which he was cautioned.