Ryman League Premier Division,
How Ashford lost this is beyond me. Harlow had three meaningful efforts to breach Paul Burgess’ line and scored with two of them, albeit the first being a serious contender for ‘goal of the year’. This was a game largely of one way traffic but, as chance after chance went begging, you sensed that this was not going to be Ashford’s night.
Had Byron Harrison opened the scoring in Ashford’s favour, after 2 minutes, it may have been a different story but he didn’t, firing his shot wide after good approach work by Ricky Wellard. Another chance came from a foul on Paul Johnson but Warren Harris’ free kick was put over his own bar by Danny Chapman for a corner.
In what looked like a position with no immediate danger, sloppy work on the right of the Ashford defence allowed Jamie Richards to pick up a loose ball and fire an unstoppable curling shot past the outstretched diving form of Burgess from fully 30 yards to give the visitors an unlikely 12th minute lead.
Three minutes later, Warren Harris (pictured, v Dover) spurned a golden opportunity to give the home team parity when his brother Scott found Ricardo Joseph sprinting outside him on the left, Joseph’s inviting cross was met by Harris the younger but put past the post.
Harris put the miss behind him and was soon attacking his defender again, this time finding Johnson who shot over from 20 yards then soon after, Harris embarked on another run and found Vinnie O’Sullivan with a square ball. O’Sullivan’s cross was headed over by Scott Harris.
By this time, the referee was well on the way to producing one of the most inept and pedantic performances seen in many a year at Short Lane aided by his similarly poor assistants, missing infringement after infringement and failing to let the game find any sort of rhythm.
Ashford kept the pressure on the beleaguered Harlow defence but just could not find the back of the net as Johnson again half-volleyed a chance over the bar and then, at the start of the second half, headed a Wellard free kick against the bar.
Harlow keeper, James Hasell, came to his side’s rescue when Warren Harris ran on to a tremendous cross-field pass from Harrison and fired a good effort goalwards. Then, in a rare attack, Paul Kear headed wide from a corner.
When, in the 68th minute, Warren Harris sped past 2 defenders only to be taken out from behind, the referee, who had a good view of the incident, unbelievably waved play-on.
Three minutes later, a Wellard corner was brilliantly controlled and hit on the turn by Harrison only for the ball to cannon off the bar and away to safety.
Well against the run of play, Harlow increased their lead and it was again sloppy defending that led to James Bunn finding himself with just Paul burgess to beat giving the Ashford keeper no chance firing into the far corner.
Warren Harris had a late chance to pull one back from a Wellard free kick but even that went over the bar.