FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round,
Ashford duly despatched their game opponents from the United Counties Premier League with an uninspiring display as they struggled to get out of first gear. A well taken Scott ‘Hatchet’ Harris hat-trick was the highlight of the day, while a groin injury to right back Vinnie O’Sullivan provided a downside to the visit to Northamptonshire.
Mark Butler was forced into making two changes from the side that lost to Harlow in midweek, Paul Burgess and Stuart Bamford, both injury victims with thigh strain and cracked rib respectively, were replaced by Craig Ross and Russ Canderton.
Neither keeper was unduly troubled in the early exchanges with both sides banging long balls around the pitch. Whenever the visitors got their passing game together they looked the more dangerous side with Ricky Wellard and Paul Johnson orchestrating matters and Gavin Bamford patrolling the area just in front of the back four. Raunds main tactic was to try to hit balls over the Ashford defence for Cavell Jarvis to run on to but Ricardo Josephs was more than equal to the task of keeping Jarvis quiet.
After half an hour of the match, played at training ground pace, Ashford took the lead. Raunds’ big centre back Gavin Fitzgerald was adjudged to have fouled Byron Harrison on the Ashford right, a short free-kick was played into the feet of Warren Harris by Wellard and the young winger shot goalwards only to see the home keeper Mike Hearn save with his feet but brother Scott (pictured) was on hand to tap home.
No tap-in for Hatchet’s and his team’s second. Three minutes later a ball out of defence was shielded then nodded on by Harrison, Harris ran on and buried the ball past Hearn and into the net from 25 yards.
A through ball by Glenn Turner was latched on to by Adam Taylor but his threat was quickly snuffed out by Jeffreys who along with Canderton enjoyed very solid performances in Ashford’s central defence. Ricky Chambers had the opportunity to run at the visitors defence with Jarvis in attendance but Bamford made sure that Chambers was stopped in his tracks with a no nonsense tackle to alleviate the danger.
Raunds’ Fitzgerald and Dane Ridgway were cautioned in quick succession shortly afterwards as the pressure mounted.
Harris completed his hat-trick in the 48th minute from Ashford’s first attack of the second half when he won a corner on the Ashford right then rose above the staid Raunds defence to head Wellard’s inswinging corner kick powerfully past Hearn.
Harris could have had a fourth shortly after but shot against Hearn’s legs from a tight angle when put through and Warren Harris, Wellard and Johnson all had efforts either saved or blocked.
With the game as much as won, Ashford took Scott Harris off replacing him with Scott Todd, Byron Harrison was later replaced by Jon Palmer but the score remained the same.
Ashford progressed to the next round doing just enough to get through and are sure to up their game to counter the challenges ahead.