FA Trophy 1st Qualifying Round,
With one eye on Ashford’s forthcoming FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round match with Forest Green Rovers, and in an effort to freshen up the side, manager Mark Butler elected to rest some of his players bringing in Vinnie O’Sullivan, Russ Canderton, Gavin Smith and Wes Goggin in place of Brett Cooper, Stuart Bamford and the Harris brothers Scott and Warren.
Ashford started slowly and with just 3 minutes on the clock Billy Jeffreys was forced to clear off his own goal line from Wayne Grant with Craig Ross beaten then, 2 minutes later, a Tim Lees free kick just outside the Ashford penalty box was gathered comfortably by Ross before the visitors first meaningful attempt when Ricky Wellard was bought down. The resulting free kick was taken by Paul Johnson but headed over Gavin King’s bar by Gavin Smith for a goal kick.
The home side took the lead in the 10th minute, Ross came for a long throw from the Wingate left but, under pressure from Grant, fumbled, with the ball dropping nicely into the path of the striker who poked it into the back of the Ashford net.
Ashford had the chance to regain parity soon after when Armet Rifat was penalised for hand ball 5 yards outside the Wingate area but Johnson blasted the ball high over the bar then Smith fired a good effort goal ward only to see King gather the ball at the second attempt.
Johnson and Ricardo Joseph both saw shots fly over the Wingate bar as Ashford began to pressurise their hosts defence, but a break down the other end saw Joseph play the ball into the path of Grant who raced clear, drew Ross out but shot into the side netting.
Good defending by Michael Sacks prevented Wes Goggin getting a shooting opportunity following a good run by Wellard who slipped the ball into the path of his fellow midfielder but Sacks had read the move and reacted well to snuff out the danger.
On the hour mark Ola Williams tested Ross in the Ashford goal with a good turn and shot but the young keeper was equal to it, saving low to his left, then at the other end, Johnson saw another shot miss the target, this time sailing wide after good work from Byron Harrison.
In the 64th minute, Goggin and Canderton made way for Scott Todd and Warren Harris as Mark Butler attempted to exploit the space on the wings, Harris was only on the pitch for a minute before he was unfairly bought down by Keiron Street who was cautioned, Johnson’s free kick being cleared.
Another free kick, this time for a foul on Wellard by Marvin Samuel, posed no problem for King who took Johnson’s shot waist high then Ashford made their last substitution, skipper Gavin Bamford replaced by Adam Logie. Logie can claim an assist for his part in Ashford’s late equaliser following another free kick for a foul on Wellard. Johnson played the ball into the Wingate penalty area where Logie flicked the ball on for Harrison (pictured) to get the final touch and scramble the ball over the line.
Smith had a chance in time added on, after combining with Harrison, but shot agonisingly just wide of the far post.
A draw was probably a fair result but Ashford will feel that they should be able to go one better in the replay at Short Lane on Tuesday.