FA Carlsberg Trophy, Second Qualifying Round
Ashford’s FA Trophy adventure came to an end at the hands of local rivals Chertsey Town by virtue of a 6-5 defeat, but not before a quite spectacular game that had almost everything. The only thing missing was a controversial decision from the match officials, but referee Ashley Slaughter handled this old-fashioned Cup tie well and got all of the major calls right.
The League match between the clubs had finished 5-4 to Ashford back in August after Ashford had been 4-1, so perhaps this remarkable match could have been predicted. Certainly, there was a healthy crowd present, which contained a significant travelling support.
Having rotated his team in midweek, Paul Burgess fielded a more familiar line-up at Alwyns Lane, including Dan Brown (pictured) up front, who was available again after a three week holiday. Word had reached the club via Twitter that the striker had been running on the beaches of Florida to keep himself sharp and when Dan’s smart header gave the Ash Trees a fifth minute lead, it was clear that he had lost none of his goalscoring instincts.
Chertsey equalised within four minutes when Samad Kazi conceded a penalty, which Eddie Smith converted smartly. Kiri Takahiro caused some problems for the home defence before Daniel Bennett’s 25yard drive put the Curfews ahead.
Takahiro was denied by a smart double save by Jordan Kennedy in the 18th minute before Ashford levelled the match in the 22nd minute, Ed Thomas curling the ball into the net from the edge of the penalty area after being set up by a good passing move.
However, an eight-minute spell would turn this tie on its head as Ashford shipped four goals. The home side took the lead when they caught the Tangerines on the counter-attack and teed up skipper David Johnston, who took advantage of lackadaisical defending to score.
Two minutes later it might have been 3-3, as Dan Brown’s run and shot was blocked, but instead it was 4-2 as the Curfews again caught Ashford out on the break, Troy Ferguson driving the ball into the net.
Phil Page then struck twice from distance in the space of three minutes to send the home fans into raptures. The first of these goals was from a central position, while the second was a superb curling drive from an acute angle.
The final seven minutes of the half passed without further goals, although the visitors did win two corners.
Four goals behind at the interval, Ashford had to produce a remarkable second-half performance and came within a whisker of rescuing the game. Pietro Palladino had a shot blocked and Chertsey again hit Ashford on the break, Page’s shot being saved by Paul McCarthy.
In the 55th minute, Jim Mann headed into the net from a corner to start the fightback. Seven minutes later, Dan Brown had a header cleared off the line from another set-piece. Although Tommy McGarry headed over from a free-kick for the hosts, Chertsey were on the back foot and were forced to scramble a flicked header by Mark Bitmead off the line.
Brown and Russell Canderton both went close to scoring Ashford’s fourth goal, but were denied by good saves from Kennedy. However, from the resultant corner, Jack Mullan headed into the net to reduce the arrears to two goals and give his team fifteen minutes to rescue the tie.
Ashford were now pouring forward and Canderton narrowly failed to score Ashford’s fifth goal and Bitmead had a shot deflected.
With two minutes of injury time on the watch, Ashley Lodge drove the ball into the net to make the score 6-5. There was still time for home defender Miles Smith to slice a clearance over his own crossbar and for Kennedy to make a save on the goal line in a scramble.
While defensive frailty is again an issue for Ashford, the second half performance from the Ash Trees was stirring and if Paul Burgess’ side can replicate that 45-minute display consistently then a bright future awaits them. However, too many more displays like the eight minutes that ultimately cost them this tie and a long season might lie ahead.