The FA Cup with Budweiser, First Qualifying Round
|These two sides will have to try again to settle this FA Cup tie, after Ashford secured a replay thanks to a late goal from defender Harry Knock. The Spartan South Midland League side might feel they could have won the game, having reversed an early deficit to lead going into stoppage time but one of the key characteristics of this Ashford side is their spirit and this was encapsulated by Knock’s late goal.
Having won three consecutive matches without conceding a goal, Ashford named an unchanged side, which meant that captain Russell Canderton made his 400th starting appearance in the Tangerine & White. On a sweltering day at the rebuilt Creasey Park stadium, Ashford had an early sight of goal when Kofi Lockhart-Adams surged through the home defence and shot just wide. However, the home side quickly hit their stride and Nathan Frater had two early chances.
However, it was Ashford who took the lead in the 14th minute, when a superb cross-field pass from Ashley Lodge sent Ed Thomas tearing down the left wing before the wide man cut inside and shot across Lewis Kidd’s goal, the ball deceiving the ‘keeper and finding the net.
The hosts rallied quickly and equalised in the 29th minute when the excellent Lee Roache received a low cross from the left and shot across Paul McCarthy. By this stage, the game was a finely balanced contest between two good sides. With seven minutes of the first half remaining, Frater elbowed Thomas after the ball had gone but the incident was missed by the officials, This clash was the exception rather than the rule, and the match was a largely clean affair, well controlled by the referee and his assistants. What the coming together did signify was a shift in the game’s momentum, as the home side began to impose themselves on their guests. Mark Bitmead have a shot saved just before half-time but as the players headed for the shade of the changing room, it was clear that the game was too close to call.
The second half opened cagily, but the hosts were beginning to take a grip on proceedings, although Lockhart-Adams sprang their offside trap and had a shot parried by Kidd. Dunstable began to control possession and their set-pieces were a constant threat, but Ashford looked dangerous on the counter-attack, with Dan Brown and Lockhart-Adams causing problems for the Blues. At the other end, Roache hit the post from an acrobatic strike.
That shot should have been a warning for the Ash Trees, but with fifteen minutes remaining, Roache was at the heart of the move that gave them a deserved lead. The lively forward deceived both Canderton and Jack Mullan before cutting the ball back for Leon Cashman, who was left with a simple finish.
Ashford hit back and Canderton had a shot blocked before being unceremoniously flattened. That was a relatively rare sight of goal for the Tangerines and it looked as if Ashford’s chance of Cup progress had gone. However, as the game moved into additional time, a free-kick gave Ashford the chance to break and the ball was played into Harry Knock, whose controlled shot found the roof of the net.
Dunstable will go into the replay feeling that they should already have made progress in the competition, but Ashford will be aiming to show a little more of their undoubted quality in the replay, having not been at their best in this match. Having ridden their luck, the Ash Trees will aim to seize their second chance.