Evo-Stik League Southern Division One Central
Daventry Town are rapidly becoming something of a “bogey” team for Ashford, who have now lost all three of their meetings with the men from Northamptonshire. Nor could the home side have any complaints, given that their strongest passages of play did not come until Daventry were two goals ahead.
Ashford made only one change from the side that had won at St Albans City in the FA Trophy a week before, with Jake Jeffries making a debut in central defence in place of Jim Mann, who was suffering with ‘flu. Both sides attempted to play positive passing football on a good pitch, but were not helped by a blustery wind. The first half was largely forgettable, although Daventry, helped by the promptings of former Aston Villa midfielder Lee Hendrie, looked the likelier side to score, with Stuart Hendrie going close on several occassions, his performance not hindered by an early booking for a cynical challenge.
Stuart Hendrie’s strike partner, the veteran forward Howard Forinton, left the field before half time through injury and his replacement, Mark Bellingham, changed the game in his side’s favour.
Bellingham’s first key intervention came just five minutes into the second half when he lashed home the rebound from a blocked free kick, leaving Ashford goalkeeper Paul McCarthy with no chance. The game was even until the 66th minute when a long ball out of defence was collected by Bellingham, whose run and low cross created a simple chance for Nathan Hicks, who finished tidily to double Daventry’s lead.
This setback finally shifted Ashford from their torpor and the Ash Trees pulled a goal back within three minutes. Midfielder Jack Mullan belted a fierce shot into the net at the Tank End from 25 yards to score his third goal in two games.
The goal gave the home team a glimmer of hope, and they laid siege to the Daventry goal. Pietro Palladino was denied by a superb save from visiting stopper David Bevan and Mark Bitmead struck the crossbar with one of several tricky chances. Ashford should also have had a penalty when Jason Lee clearly handled the ball. Referee Yeo merely shook his head at the vociferous appeals, while Lee openly laughed about his good fortune. This was the second handball to be dealt with in a slightly surprising fashion – Lee Hendrie received only a ticking-off for catching the ball earlier in the match.
With no help forthcoming from the officials, Ashford decided that the best way of salvaging something from the match was to throw the proverbial “kitchen sink” at Daventry, with skipper Russell Canderton deployed as an emergency striker and Josh Andrew replacing Mark Bitmead. With Ashford throwing the ball forward, there were gaps in the defence for Daventry to exploit and they might have added to their lead. However, there were no further goals and Ashford will reflect on their first home league defeat of the season coming so soon after a memorable away cup victory. The scout from Chertsey Town who was watching this game ahead of next weekend’s derby in the FA Trophy will not have seen much in this game to frighten him, but this team frequently seem to be at their best when written off.