Ryman League Premier Division,
Firstly let me emphasise that this is my own personal opinion and it is not necessarily shared by Ashford Town Football Club. That said, the FA have this initiative that seeks to encourage RESPECT on the football pitch then they send a referee to take charge of an important match where both sides are fighting against the threat of relegation who, because of his own sense of self importance, gives a display of such ineptitude and arrogance that he embarrassed not only himself but the FA as well. Where is the respect in that?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming any of the officials for the defeat, which is solely down to Ashford’s inability to score goals at the present time. What is important though is the basic ability of a referee to get decisions right and not make it painfully aware that his allegiance lies with one side or the other, even if it does.
It was apparent that it was going to be an uphill struggle for the visitors when, in the 7th minute Peter Dean, clearly yards off-side, ran onto a long ball out of defence and lobbed the advancing Ashford keeper Craig Ross to give Hendon the lead. Not many in the ground would argue that the home team were not good value for the goal as their passing looked fast and crisp and found their own men, with Ashford struggling to get out of their own half, but it was still off-side.
Seven minutes later Ashford spurned a good chance to equalise when they were awarded a free kick for a foul on Jermaine McGlashan which Paul Johnson launched into the home penalty box. Jones Awuah got his head to the ball but only succeeded in knocking it up in the air where it landed next to Russ Canderton, but his weak shot didn’t trouble Hendon’s keeper Berkley Laurencin.
As Ashford fought their way back into the game, a good move out of defence ended with Scott Harris showing good control in pulling the ball out of the air with his first touch before laying it off to his right where McGlashan was arriving. The tricky winger advanced then shot powerfully through the legs of James Burgess but an excellent full length diving save from Laurencin pushed the ball round the post for a corner.
Harris, unfortunately, succumbed to a bad knee injury, minutes later which may keep him out for some time, his replacement being ex-Hendon striker Brian Haule. We wish ‘Hatchet’ a speedy and full recovery.
Ashford’s woes were confounded shortly after when Hendon forced a corner on the Ashford left which, from the resulting kick, the ball was headed past Ross by the unmarked Casey MacLaren to put Hendon two goals to the good.
Kevin MacLaren had a chance when an Ashford move broke down but he was too eager and shot well wide from range when he had room to get closer to the Ashford goal then, at the other end, Jones Awuah was pulled back as he looked to run onto a ball through the Hendon defence from Johnson but the referee yet again saw nothing wrong.
Awuah wasted another opportunity early in the second half, when he rose to meet Johnson’s free kick, for a foul on McGlashan, heading over the Hendon bar then a poor clearance by Laurencin went straight to Johnson who advanced to the edge of the Hendon penalty area where he was pulled down by his shirt from behind as he was about to let fly but, yet again, the referee waved play on.
Two minutes later, in the 62nd minute, Ashford pulled a goal back. It was a bit of a fluke but they all count and I’m sure Awuah will still claim it, and rightly so. The ball looked to all intense and purposes to be heading out for a goal kick when it was retrieved by the long leg of Brian Haule who hooked it back into the six yard box where attempts to clear it only contrived to drive it against Awuah where it looped up and over Laurencin and just under his bar.
Another chance was denied Ashford when Brian Haule played an incisive ball through the Hendon defence where Awuah, at least a yard behind the last defender, raced onto the ball and into the clear only to be ridiculously flagged off-side by the ball-watching assistant referee.
Ashford had the bit between their teeth by now and were enjoying more of the possession than their fellow Middlesex opponents.
Scott Weight did well to turn in midfield, under pressure, to send McGlashan away down the left and the young winger checked his run twice before he sent in a good low cross that was turned just wide of the Hendon near post by Awuah then, the farce began as Ashford had two men sent off in the space of two minutes.
First to leave the field was Russ Canderton, never before dismissed, he carried out the heinous crime of contesting, politely, the referee’s decision to wave play on after a Hendon defender had blatantly handballed in his own area from an Ashford free kick played in by Johnson. The referee flourished Canderton’s second yellow card of the afternoon to be quickly followed by the red.
Brian Haule quickly followed Canderton in to the early bath when the referee objected to a fair challenge by the Ashford striker and, before the subsequent free kick could be taken, dismissed Haule for, what was believed to be, foul language but the writer and several others in the small crowd were close by the incident and, if there was foul language used, it certainly wasn’t by Brian Haule.
Even with just nine men Ashford showed spirit and a great desire to play for each other and, with the encouragement of the management in and out of the dug-out, yes, they incurred the wrath of the strutting official as well, still managed more attempts on goal than their opponents.
In the 84th minute Awuah found McGlashan with a good ball out to the left and he sent over a cross to Johnson who wasted the chance by shooting over.
Ashford’s best chance of levelling the match came in the 3rd minute of time added on when Johnson relieved Hendon substitute Dave Diedhiou of the ball out on the left and laid it into the feet of McGlashan in the penalty area. McGlashan was bought down for a penalty but an excellent diving save from Laurencin from Johnson’s well struck effort kept all three points in Hendon’s possession.
All in all it was a ‘bad day in the office’ for Ashford aided and abetted by the officials. It is enough to make the writer consider, seriously, whether or not to go back to rugby where the referees earn and are given RESPECT by the players.