Ryman League Premier Division,
The undoubted class of this Carshalton side shone throughout the majority of this match and, at least for the first 30 minutes, gave their visitors a lesson on how to find and exploit space. After some 7 minutes of applied pressure, where Ashford failed to register a single meaningful attack, last season’s top scorer Richard Jolly deservedly gave Carshalton the lead, firing through a ruck of players past the unsighted Ashford keeper Craig Ross.
Try as he might, Paul Johnson endeavoured to raise the work rate of his beleaguered colleagues to match that of Adrian Toppin who, along with his fellow midfielders, were dictating the direction and pace of the game. As it was, Toppin was allowed to set up chances for his strikers, Jolly and Charlie Ide, almost at will.
A dark cloud of foreboding settled over the visiting supporters when, in the 23rd minute, Carshalton’s skipper and left back Scott Cousins ran at Brett Cooper, cut inside and sent a well weighted ball into the path of Jamie England who launched a vicious left footed drive past Ross and into the top corner of the Ashford net.
A minute later, Ross was obliged to save low down from Ide before Johnson charged down Matt Reed’s intended drop kick only to see, from his perspective, the ball bounce the wrong side of the Robins post then, soon after, Simon Cooper charged forward along the Carshalton right, cut inside and smashed a tremendous drive just over Ross’ bar.
Ashford started to make inroads into their hosts territory with Scott Harris showing a particularly battling spirit as he fought to get his side back into the match until, on 30 minutes, Ashford were awarded a free-kick on their left hand side midway between the half way line and the Robins penalty box. Warren Harris swung over a teasing ball into the Robin’s penalty area where Billy Jeffreys rose to steer a good header past Reed to give his team a life-line.
Five minutes later a foul on an unusually quiet Byron Harrison gave Ashford another free-kick, this time in a more central position and, again, the younger Harris provided his team mates with a well placed ball, this time finding the head of Hone Fowler who powered his header straight into the arms of Reed.
The last action of a disappointing half, from an Ashford point of view, saw Billy Jeffreys just fail to make contact with a well flighted Johnson free-kick, the ball bouncing wide of Reeds goal.
Ashford continued to make a contest of the match as they started the second half and should have equalised within the first five minutes as Harrison beat the Robins off-side trap and ran on to a superbly weighted ball but, to the astonishment of the visiting support, the usually cool finishing deserted the Ashford striker and his shot rebounded back to him off the keeper and, with the goal at his mercy contrived to hit the outside of the post with his follow up shot.
Carshalton continued to play with confidence and purpose and the angles of running from the front two pulled the Ashford defence all over the place exposing gaps which their colleagues filled. In the 54th minute, Jolly and Ide pulled away to each side as Cousins sent over a cross from the left which Russ Canderton reached but had no choice but to head the ball into the path of England, but the Robin’s midfielder could not emulate his feat of the first half and his volley sailed wide then, two minutes later, Carshalton executed a superb move that deserved a better conclusion as they tore open the visitors defence again. As Ashford pushed up, a quick break saw Ide and Jolly exchange passes as Toppin pealed of to the right receiving the ball in his path, but his low cross to the far post eluded all.
With the game poised at 2 – 1, it was obvious that the next goal was the important one, if it went to the home side, then it was probably game over, if it went to the visitors, it would test the nerve of Carshalton. Unfortunately for Ashford it was the former scenario. Another break out of defence saw Ashford stretched at the back and a long ball forward to Ide, on the right, was instantly controlled. Ide cut inside Fowler and directed a low shot between Ross and his near post to effectively kill the game.
Another break, this time by Cousins, gave him time to find Ide on the right who centred only for Jolly to miss his volley.
Ashford continued to battle and, in fact, had the ball in the back of the Robins net with a quarter of an hour to go but the assistant ruled out what would have been Jeffreys second of the match, a volley from a Johnson free-kick, for off-side. Shortly after, a surging run from substitute Vinnie O’Sullivan gave him the room to push the ball into the path of Scott Harris but the Ashford striker, under considerable pressure from Robins Liam Harwood, hit the post from an acute angle.
Ashford continued to rue missed chances, this one coming after a period of sustained pressure had forced a corner which was taken by Warren Harris and cleared out to Paul Johnson on the right. Johnson found another substitute, Adam Logie, with a square ball and his flick was taken by Reed only to drop the ball under the challenge of Harrison, but again, it was not Harrison’s day as his shot rolled wide of the open goal.
The game, which up to the 90 minute mark, had been competitive but fair, boiled over as, first Charlie Ide was dismissed for swearing at an official, then Scott Harris joined him in the early bath for indulging in a spot of over enthusiastic hand-bags with Toppin, who, incredibly was merely cautioned.
Photo by Chris Hatton