Ryman League Premier Division,
Ashford got exactly what they deserved from this match, absolutely nothing. A tired, subdued and lethargic performance was never going to be good enough to beat even a side that had previously recorded just two wins this season and were currently occupying bottom place in the league.
The home side started slowly, allowing Heybridge to dictate the pace of the game, and they responded with three chances in the first ten minutes none of which unduly troubled Paul Burgess in the Ashford goal. First, Robbie King had a free kick cleared while Gary Hill and James Robinson shot wide.
Ashford had a chance on the quarter hour when they were awarded a free kick for a foul on Gavin Smith by Ian Wiles but Warren Harris sent his kick wide, then another foul went unpunished as Paul Johnson’s free kick was headed out for a corner.
The first caution of the game came int the 26th minute when Heybridge’s Ryan Hull lunged in with a late challenge on the flying Warren Harris, the resulting free kick being cleared before Robinson spurned the visitor’s best chance so far when, unmarked’ he headed wide from a corner.
Ollie Morris-Saunders, the Heybridge keeper, after the merest contact with Byron Harrison, fell to the turf as if he had been mugged, but after extensive treatment from the physio he picked himself up and soldiered on.
Good defending by Ricardo Joseph alleviated the danger when he got back to thwart the lively Billy Hawes after a surging run and cross by Chris Bournes, then, just before the break, Ashford created their first clear opening when Ricky Wellard was played in but, with the ball on his unfavoured right foot, he shot tamely into the Heybridge keeper’s arms.
Saunders, again, went down from the lightest of challenges provoking much derision from the sparse crowd of 75, but after treatment ‘bravely’ rose to his feet and carried on.
Robinson became the second player in Mr Gillett’s book, just after the break, for dissent and, soon after, Heybridge scored what was to be, the deciding goal. Burgess was forced into a diving save to tip the ball round the post from a shot by Hawes, but King headed home the subsequent corner.
The visitors very nearly had a second soon after when Hawes contested a long ball out of defence with Burgess but the veteran keeper did enough to force Hawes to head wide, then, at the other end, Harrison had a good chance when Vinnie O’Sullivan played a one – two with Warren Harris (pictured) then crossed only for Harrison to head over.
Apart from the Ashford’s ‘behind the goal’ gang, the most noise was being provided by the hundreds of Green Parakeets that roost in the trees behind the Short Lane end goal.
A thumping free kick by Johnson hit the defensive wall, then a long throw from Guy Hollis was nodded on by Gavin Smith to Harrison who headed wide from close range and a mazy run and shot by the same player fizzed over the Heybridge bar.
Heybridge found themselves down to ten men with a quarter of an hour to go after Robinson was dismissed for a spot of ‘afters’ with O’Sullivan and Heybridge responded to the setback by pulling their remaining players back behind the ball in anticipation of an Ashford onslaught that never really happened. The tactic, although negative, worked as they managed to hold on to record their third win of the season.
So no early Christmas cheer for the Tangerines, but Mark should have no problems rousing his troops for next Saturday’s derby against local rivals high flying Staines Town.