Ashford Town (Middlesex) 5
Crawley Down 1

Southern Combination Cup 1st Round,
Short Lane Stadium
30th September 2008

On a wintery evening, an Ashford squad that featured four players making their senior debuts eventually eased past their Sussex League visitors to secure their passage in a competition the Tangerines were finalists in last season.  Goalkeeper Dan Cox and promising youngster Jimmy Stanford were handed their first starts, while Youth Team players Danny Byron and Daryl Loates took their bows from the bench.

However, Cox’s game didn’t get off to a great start, as in the tenth minute he seemed to have dealt with a free-kick taken by Scott Woolley, but the ball then eluded his grasp and went into the net.  This inspired the visitors, who enjoyed a good opening quarter of the match without seriously troubling Cox again.  However, in the 23rd minute, Town were level with their first truly threatening move of the match.

A corner from the left side went across the pitch to Paul Johnson, whose low cross was met by a diving header from Jimmy Stanford which found the Anvils net.  However, Crawley were aggrieved and claimed that Paul Otway had been fouled in the move.  Although there was a long stoppage to allow treatment for Otway, referee Wright indicated that the goal would stand.

Ashford’s blend of youth and experience took control of the game after that and Stanford almost gave his side the lead when he beat two defenders and attempted to chip visiting keeper Shayne Goldsmith, who gathered the ball comfortably.  However, Ashford continued to threaten Goldsmith, and eventually took the lead eight minutes before the interval.  The goal was a sublime effort from Scott Todd, who lobbed Goldsmith from an acute angle.  It was Todd’s 100th senior goal for the club and was typical of the mercurial talent he possesses.

Four minutes later, Ashford doubled their lead when Goldsmith spilled a Paul Johnson free kick and Gavin Bamford  turned the ball into the net in the final significant action of the first half.

The second half saw Ashford continue to dominate the game, with Johnson heading a Todd corner inches wide and then Vinny O’Sullivan firing across the visitors’ goal.  Just after the hour, Banford and Todd were replaced by Danny Byron and Gavin Smith.  Crawley Down continued to try to play good football and Gareth Neathey fired over the Ashford crossbar in the 68th minutes.  Moments later, Mark Butler replaced one 16 year old with another, bringing on Daryl Loates for Jimmy Stanford.

With seventeen minutes remaining, Wes Goggin made it 4-1 when Goldsmith failed to gather a long pass and the industrious midfielder took the ball past him and steered it into the empty net.  Shortly after that, the luckless goalkeeper was replaced by Liam Harris, who could do little about the final goal, which was scored in the 83rd minute.  Daryl Loates and Jon Palmer combined well as the Tangerines passed the ball very well and Palmer found Gavin Smith, whose strike was a precise one.

After the match, Mark Butler described his side’s work as “almost perfect”.  A home tie with holders Chipstead now awaits but for Ashford the performance of their youngsters was a source of more joy, as were the performances of those senior players who are re-emerging from injury.