MATCH PREVIEW: Hasting United vs Ashford
FA Trophy 3rd Round Qualifying

by Alan Constable

Following the two hard fought wins against Hullbridge and Whitstable Town, Ashford’s reward this coming Saturday, (31 October) is a trip to the seaside to play Hastings United in the 3rd Qualifying Round of the FA Trophy.

Firstly though, the writer’s take on our midweek defeat against Chertsey in front of a sell-out crowd of 400. We have had more at matches. The first league match against AFC Wimbledon being one, and the Short Lane opener back in 1986 for the match against Brentford. Nevertheless, such a crowd was financially very welcoming on a damp Tuesday evening.

Sadly we couldn’t seem to get started in the first half allowing Chertsey to take a two goal lead. Both of them were questionable. Especially the first, when the referee went to give us a free kick only to change his mind because we retained possession ten yards further back and in our own half. The ball was then lost and ended up in the back of our net. The second goal looked well offside but the fact was that both stood and that the resulting scoreline could not really be disputed as being unfair based on the play. The second half was different. We saw the Tangerines playing as they had been doing for much of the season, and in terms of possession we turned it right round. With some sharp incisive football apart from the thing that mattered – putting the ball in the net. The Chertsey keeper was magnificent, pulling off two wonder saves but our finishing was also lax on the night. Then, to rub it in, right at the death a miscue by Paul McCarthy in goal saw his clearance rebound from Jake Baxter’s nether regions before he put it in the net and we knew the game was up as he notched his hattrick. Congratulations go to him but 0-3 did not reflect the overall play and nobody should be too discouraged as our new squad continue to find their feet.

It was a fractious game at times with the tackles piling in. One or two of which were distinctly questionable from both sides. It was almost inevitable that someone would be walking even though the referee was making allowances for both the conditions and that it was a very local match, and it turned out to be Chertsey’s Sam Hurrell whose second assault on the night brought the inevitable. Although Chertsey then conceded almost total possession to Ashford but they defended well and we just could not get a goal back.

That’s gone now and we look forward to Saturday’s FA Trophy match against Hastings. Our opponents are expecting a sell out and all the tickets may now have gone but if you haven’t got one the link is down below for more info and tickets, or you can on their web site and see if there are any left.

The address of the ground is Elphinstone Road Hastings East Sussex TN34 2AX. It is a lovely, big old ground with room to spread out, although most of the home supporters seem to congregate along the near touchline or used to certainly, when we played them regularly for a couple of seasons, albeit over ten years ago. We probably could not have picked a much more difficult tie on paper as Hastings are now right on top of the South Eastern Division of the Pitching In Isthmian League with 17 points from their opening seven league matches. Having won five and drawn two. They beat FC Romania 3-0 in the previous round of the Trophy, also at home, whilst in the FA Cup a 1-0 win over Herne Bay saw them drawn against Ebbfleet United. The latter going through 4-1 on penalties after a 2-2 draw.

Historically we have met Hastings on just five previous occasions. Four of them being league matches when we were both in the Ryman Premier Division. The first encounter coming on 16 August 2008, when Scott Harris scored both our goals in a 2-1 win at Hastings. We also won the return match at Short Lane when we built up a five goal lead only for Hastings to come mightily close as they got four back in the second half. After dreaming of possible double figures at half-time we were desperately holding on by the end, in what was probably one of the most remarkable matches ever played at Short Lane. The goals kept flowing in 2009-2010, with a 4-4 draw at Hastings and a 3-2 win at home. In the latter match one of our scorers was Joe McNerney who played a handful of matches for us whilst on loan from Woking. He was an excellent player but rather blotted his copy book when he failed to turn up for a subsequent match away at Cray Wanderers, being played at Bromley prior to Cray moving to their new ground. There may have been a reason but Jamie Lawrence, our manager at the time, certainly didn’t seem to be aware of it.

There was then a gap of several seasons until the 2017-2018 season, when we were drawn against Hastings in the FA Trophy. Just like Saturday, it was at Hastings on a very wet pitch and both sides went at each other relentlessly for the whole 90 minutes. It was a superbly exciting match often spoilt in our eyes by the referee, who we felt, judging by our worthy Secretary’s report at the time, that he was both inconsistent and arrogant. It was all too much for Ya-Yah El-Kabouche, who was sent off near the end. There were also cautions for Tommy Brunton, Dan Fleming, Russell Canderton and Jabir Laraba. Hastings took advantage of our disarray, coming back to equalise in the 90th minute to make it three apiece when we looked dead on our feet. Incredibly though, Jack Beadle summoned up the energy to gallop up the field one last time and made it 4-3 in our favour deep in stoppage time although Mr. xxx still managed to find several extra minutes from somewhere. We somehow held out against an excellent Hastings side who would not have found much consolation in it but who played a full part in the entertainment that day.

Back to the present and just to remind you, there is no extra time on Saturday and the match has to be settled on the day. With no less than 32 goals in those previous five encounters, who knows what the day will bring.

Next week, it’s another tortuous trip on Tuesday night when we go to Barking for a league match. It was only last season that we met Barking for the first time ever and it was only the once, at Short Lane, with Covid putting a stop to the return match. On Saturday next, it’s our shortest trip of the season when we go down the road to meet Bedfont Sports.