Ryman League Premier Division,
Ashford’s run of six successive defeats was bought to an end with this hard earned and deserved point against a strong, mobile Carshalton side. This was Ashford’s first league point since their defeat of Hastings on 6th December, a run which had seen them slip several places to a league position where a relegation dog-fight was imminent.
With Billy Jeffreys and Paul Johnson absent through injury and Scott Harris midway through a lengthy suspension, Mark Butler pushed Adam Logie back into the centre of defence from midfield, bought Scott Weight in as the holding midfielder and partnered Byron Harrison with Gavin Smith up front. 17 year old Danny Byron continued the difficult role of deputising for Johnson in the middle of the midfield and, until he began to tire, played exceptionally well, showing a good first touch and an eye for the astute pass.
The departure of Mark’s popular right hand man Rory Gleeson was commented upon with, the emotion being, considerable regret by the Ashford supporters and he will be sorely missed. One advantage has come of it though, spectators around the home dug-out were able to observe the whole of the goings-on instead of having a view of the rear of Rory’s massive frame, as he liked to stand at the edge of the technical area not only blotting out a fair proportion of the pitch but also creating his own personal eclipse of the sun.
Early action saw Gavin Smith elect to cross instead of testing the Carshalton keeper, Simon Overland, while Richard Jolly fired over Paul Burgess’ bar at the other end before Warren Harris slipped his marker to run onto a long ball out of defence. But, with Overland stranded, Harris saw his shot cleared off the Robins line.
Byron Harrison had an excellent chance, two minutes later, but glanced Ricky Wellard’s deep cross wide but, a minute later, redeemed himself by controlling Harris’ free kick on his chest before turning and burying the ball past Overland and into the Carshalton net to open the scoring for the home side.
Fifth placed Carshalton came straight back onto the offensive and it took brave goal-keeping by Paul Burgess to deny Dwayne Clarke then, after good work from Jolly, Simon Cooper.
Burgess was again called into action soon after, as the visitors threw everything at the Ashford defence in an attempt to protect their excellent away record of not being beaten so far this season, diving low at the feet of Clarke then making a stunning double save, first blocking a shot from Jolly then from Clarke from the rebound.
It was Overland’s turn to shine as he nicked the ball off Harrison from Wellard’s fine cross but fumbled Harrison’s cross moments later obliging Dean Carpenter to make a hasty clearance as Gavin Smith threatened.
Smith’s dominance in the air was a telling factor in more than a few Ashford attacks, but his aerial flicks were, disappointingly, not seized upon and turned into goal scoring opportunities by his team mates, a factor that the home side were left to rue as, in the 39th minute, Carshalton re-gained parity. Dwayne Clarke was allowed space and time to pick out Jolly, who had stolen half a yard off his marker, with a pin-point cross and the prolific striker managed to send a looping header over Burgess and into the back of the Ashford net.
Carshalton put the Ashford defence under increased pressure as the second half continued, Jolly fired wide when through on goal then Cooper found Burgess at his most belligerent, saving the defender’s low shot at the near post.
The veteran Ashford keeper, playing in his 640th start for the club, and showing no sign of his powers waning, produced yet another superb save when he finger-tipped the ball over the bar from Clarke’s pile-driver of a shot from 20 yards.
Penned in their own half for periods, the home team attempted to hit Carshalton on the break and in the 67th minute Harris sped goal-wards, drew Overland off his line before sending a fizzing shot narrowly wide.
Burgess under-lined his ‘Man of the Match’ performance by producing another top class save to thwart Jolly, the ball cannoning off the bar to safety then, two poor decisions by an assistant referee, both for off-side, broke up promising Ashford attacks when the player concerned was clearly in an on-side position when the ball was played through the Carshalton defence.
Notwithstanding the officials’ decisions, Ashford had themselves to blame for spurning a golden opportunity to re-gain the lead in the 84th minute. Harrison cleverly beat the off-side trap and advanced to the goal line where he cut inside and picked out Smith with a fine cross, but Smith’s powerful diving header just cleared the Carshalton bar. Two minutes later, the leagues top scorer Richard Jolly had, arguably, an easier chance to win the game for the visitors when he took advantage of a mix-up in the Ashford defence but side-footed the ball over the bar.
The game finished at 1 – 1, a fair result, but had either side taken a larger percentage of their chances, a more positive result would have ensued.