Honours even in the heat
Evo-Stik League Southern Division One Central
| Just as they did in January, Ashford Town (Middlesex) and Bedworth United battled out a 2-2 draw, but home boss Paul Burgess declared that his side had dropped two points against the table-topping Greenbacks after the hosts had twice taken the lead.
Burgess had reacted to the previous weekend’s defeat at Biggleswade Town by making changes to his line-up, with Samad Kazi replacing Josh Andrew at right back. Ed Thomas and Jack Mullan came into the midfield, with Jim Mann moving into defence in place of Bairoh Conteh and Rob Curtis joining Andrew among the substitutes. Also on the bench was widely-travelled forward Shane Graham, who had rejoined the club from Crawley Down having last played for Ashford in the 2007-08 season.
Ashford started brightly and forwards Dan Brown and Pietro Palladino caused problems for the visiting defence, while Jim Mann also fired wide from 20 yards. The Ash Trees were the dominant side and made their ascendancy count in the 24th minute when Brown slipped a neat pass into the path of Palladino, who shot across Bedworth goalkeeper Tom Gutteridge.
Bedworth United won a corner in the 36th minute, but the set-piece was headed wide. Ashford finished the first half strongly, with a Bitmead run causing problems for the United backline before, a minute before the interval, Ed Thomas created an opportunity for Palladino, whose shot was brilliantly saved by Gutteridge.
Despite the stifling heat, both sides started the second half at a high tempo and Thomas turned and shot just wide. However, in the 57th minute, Bedworth United equalised. Paul McCarthy was left isolated by his defence and, although the stopper parried Matthew Brown’s shot, he could only turn it into the path of Mitchell Piggon, who duly tapped the ball in.
That convinced Paul Burgess to bring on Shane Graham on the hour, with the substitute scoring within seconds of entering the field. The move started with a spectacular curling shot from Mark Bitmead, who hit the angle of post and bar. Palladino picked up the loose ball and fired in a low cross, which Graham stooped to head home.
Bedworth’s response was to surge forward, with Piggon forcing a save from McCarthy and skipper Chris Tullin heading against the post. However, Ashford were also dangerous in attack and Palladino chipped a shot just wide of goal after Ashley Lodge and Shane Graham had created the chance through good work down the right flank.
Fourteen minutes from time, the Greenbacks equalised for a second time. A long ball downfield caused chaos in the home defence and, with McCarthy hesitant, burly forward Ashley Robinson forced the ball into the net.
That was the end of the scoring, although both sides had late chances to hit a winning goal, with Palladino firing inches wide with four minutes remaining, while in stoppage time McCarthy made a fingertip save from substitute Aden Moore. While the Ashford boss was somewhat disappointed not to have won, the draw was a fair result on the balance of play and ensures the Tangerines remain unbeaten at the Robert Parker Stadium this season.