Ashford Town (Middlesex) 1
Dartford 0

Ryman League Premier Division,
Short Lane Stadium
21st February 2009

Mark Butler kept faith with the same line-up that defeated AFC Hornchurch the previous Saturday but made changes to the bench with Wayne Jackson and Ashley Thompson, both signed from Fulham in midweek on work experience, included.

Dartford arrived at Short Lane in 5th place and started the game like an express train, forcing their hosts back into their own half and were unlucky not to take an early lead when James White got his head to a corner only to see the ball rebound off the bar.

Gradually though Ashford forced their way into the game and it became more of a contest as they had a series of chances themselves. Ricky Wellard headed over from a Danny Byron cross then Gavin Smith had a shot on the turn saved before a head injury to White necessitated a lengthy hold-up.

With White patched up, albeit looking a little groggy for a while, the game continued. Byron Harrison had a chance from an Adam Logie long throw but headed over the Dartford bar. Rob Haworth and Brendan Cass exchanged passes cleverly but Haworth’s final ball was intercepted by Vinnie O’Sullivan who played the ball out to Warren Harris to start another attack, shortly after, Adam Flanagan flashed a header over Paul Burgess bar from a corner.

Smith sent a good chance wide after Harris had made a trade-mark charge down his wing, playing in the Ashford striker with a well weighted pass on the run then Dartford spurned another good chance to take the lead when, after being put through by Cass, Lee Noble saw his shot sail wide, then a shot from Harrison was deflected out for a corner which Wellard took, firing the ball across the face of Andrew Young’s goal just inviting the touch that never came.

The first chance of the second half went to the home side when Wellard and Harriscombined well to set up a chance for Harrison from the edge of the Dartford penalty box but his shot fizzed wide. Dartford missed another chance as the woodwork, again, came to Ashford’s rescue, this time from the head of Haworth from Jamie Day’s free kick.

Ashford, in the 50th minute, achieved something that no other team had done in the league since December, not only put the ball in the back of the Dartford net, a feat not managed by anyone since 27th December, but to make it a winning goal, making it the first time since 13th December that the Kent side had not taken at least a point from the game. Gavin Smith found Wellard loitering on the left and the Ashford play-maker’s subsequent low cross just eluded the diving Young and into the feet of the waiting Harrison who shot home at the second attempt.

Being a goal down seemed to upset the Dartford players and the hosts were forced to defend stoutly for a good period of the game with Logie and O’Sullivan outstanding, but a cross from the Dartford left flashed dangerously across Burgess’ goal before Cass struck the bar with another fine effort.

With Brett Cooper and Ricardo Joseph taking time off from their defensive duties  to break down the flanks, Ashford were not short of attacking options ,with Scott Weight enjoying another good game in the defensive midfield role along side Wellard and Danny Byron.

Wellard was very unlucky midway through the second half when he latched onto a poor clearance by Young, who had been put under pressure by Smith, Wellard’s speculative 40 yard lob bouncing agonisingly just wide with the keeper off his line.

Harrison could have doubled his and his team’s tally late in the game, but his first touch, from a sublime pass from Harris, was uncharacteristically too heavy allowing Young to safely gather the ball.

Ashford saw out the last few minutes in nail-biting mode to take all three vital points to, hopefully, start to pull away from the dreaded drop zone.