Ryman League Premier Division,
With Stuart Bamford still suffering from a reoccurrence of the rib injury that caused him to miss several games earlier in the season, Mark Butler took the opportunity to continue 17 year old Guy Hollis’ education in the centre of defence alongside the established 18year old Billy Jeffreys.
A lively start from Billericay gave Hollis the chance to show why he is regarded as a very bright prospect, Jamie Dormer released Dave Wareham down the left who crossed only to see Lee Hunter’s shot blocked by the well positioned Hollis.
Soon after, Hollis showed considerable vision in picking out Byron Harrison, who had drifted out to the left, with a fine ball, Harrison took on and beat Lynval Duncan before finding his strike partner, Scott Harris, with a good square ball. Harris took the ball down and beat his marker in one fluid move but blasted his shot high over the Billericay bar from close range.
Harrison was again involved as Ashford opened the scoring in the 9th minute when he was awarded a free kick 25 yards outside the visitor’s penalty area. Warren Harris curled a dangerous ball into the area where Adam Logie reacted fastest, rising above the static defence to glance the ball into the back of the Billericay net.
The visitors had a couple of chances to equalise, a Wareham free kick was held safely by Craig Ross, the Ashford custodian, then Wareham, again, spurned a good chance when he found himself in space but shot tamely at Ross.
Ashford doubled their lead, in the 24th minute, from another free kick, this time Paul Johnson’s swerving ball into the penalty area was fumbled by Tony Tucker and Warren Harris was on hand to nod in the first of his three goals of the day at the far post.
The Essex side suffered more misfortune in the 32nd minute when they lost Tucker following a hand-ball outside the area which the referee, Mr Webb, felt that the challenging Harrison had deliberately been denied a clear goal scoring opportunity. Billericay were forced to sacrifice an out field player in order to bring on substitute keeper Jack Buckfield.
It wasn’t long before the home team scored their third. In the 36th minute the outstanding Byron Harrison chased and retrieved a ball down the right from Vinnie O’Sullivan then played the ball back to the Ashford full-back who had continued his run. O’Sullivan hit a deep cross to the far post where Warren Harris ghosted in to head home his second.
Two minutes later, it could have been four, but Scott Harris’ shot cleared the Billericay bar after good work from Harrison on the left then, a long throw on the visitor’s left was headed out by Logie straight to Hunter, who shot wide and, shortly after, a good run by Duncan gave him the room to cross but the ball was just missed by the head of former Woking and AFC Wimbledon winger Steve Ferguson to ensure Ashford went into the break a healthy three goals to the good.
Ashford patron, Ray Dorsett, front man with chart toppers Mungo Jerry and Eastenders actor Harry Holland were enjoying the fare served up on the pitch as more chances fell to Ashford. Scott Harris, having an unusual off-day in front of goal, was nethertheless enjoying creating openings for Harrison with his unselfish running and shutting down of defenders. Harris, though, crashed another shot high after Harrison had put him through, then Harrison himself saw a shot suffer the same fate and a Logie drive just missed the visitor’s left hand post.
Billericay had bought on Rikki Burbridge at half time and he wasted no time in trying to rough up the Ashford midfield, receiving an early caution for his troubles. But Billericay’s woes were compounded mid-way through the second half when Burbridge was dismissed for a disgraceful foul on Billy Jeffreys that left the Ashford defender requiring treatment.
Despite being down to nine men, Billericay managed to pull a goal back in the 76th minute when a long throw from the right was latched upon by Billy Bricknell who gave Ross no chance from close range.
Two late goals boosted Ashford’s goal difference, in the 88th minute substitute Gavin Smith won a hard fought tussle with Duncan and emerged with the ball before playing in Harrison, who in turn fed Warren Harris. Harris’s shot was blocked by Buckfield but Harrison was on hand to tap the ball into the empty net then, four minutes later, Warren Harris scored the goal that secured him his deserved hattrick when he collected the ball and fired in off Buckfield’s right hand post.