Ryman League Premier Division,
Seven points from the previous three games prompted Ashford manager Mark Butler to stick with the same line-up as in recent weeks but, after the sometimes scintillating displays of late, it was back to the bad old days and the team could not even use bad luck as an excuse, as they just did not turn up.
The match, as a whole, was a scrappy affair that deteriorated, in the second half, into a niggly, bad tempered contest between two sides that seemed content to by-pass the midfield, for good stretches of the game, and pump high and mighty balls up to their respective front men, a tactic that Ashford struggle with at the best of times. Aided and abetted by inept officials who, in the words of the Arsenal manager “did not see” Rob Tolfrey’s physical assault on Ashford’s Gavin Smith late in the game, in fact, it was largely due to referee Mr Cook’s inability to control the game that it spiralled into the easily forgettable non-event that it did.
Ashford, however, only have themselves to blame for losing this match. Two goals in two minutes put paid to any aspirations of returning to Short Lane with all three points. After weathering the early storm, the Middlesex side came into the game but not before Horsham had spurned two good chances to grab an early lead through Lee Carney, who elected to pass when in a good shooting position, and left winger Alex Haddow, who raced past Ashford right back Brett Cooper, but could only find the side netting with his cross/shot.
The visitors replied with a well worked move when Danny Byron held the ball up before inviting Scott Weight to deliver a good ball over the top of the Horsham defence for Byron Harrison to run on to but the striker’s intended low cross into Smith was cut out and cleared. A surging run through the middle by Warren Harris was Ashford’s next sortie into Horsham territory but he held onto the ball too long and ran into a throng of defenders.
The excellent Lee Carney seemed to be everywhere for the hosts and it was he that shot wide on the half-hour after good work on the left by Reggie Savage but, up till now, neither keeper had been unduly troubled until, in the 37th minute, Ashford created their first meaningful chance of the game. Brett Cooper intercepted a ball on the Ashford right and found Ricky Wellard who laid the ball off to his right to Smith who administered a nonchalant flick of his right foot to force a superb diving save out of Tolfrey. From the resulting corner, which was cleared, Savage lifted the ball over the Ashford bar.
Not to be out done, Paul Burgess produced an equally important save at the other end, just before the break, from Claude Seanla.
Ashford’ inability to fully clear their lines led to their downfall when Horsham struck twice in two minutes to effectively kill the game. In the 52nd minute, after a bout of head tennis, the ball fell to Savage who buried the ball past Burgess to put the home side a goal to the good then, Seanla was allowed to dribble his way through the visitors defence, including Burgess, to find the net again.
Mark Butler wasted no time in making the changes, bringing off Danny Byron and Warren Harris and sending on Wayne Jackson and Ashley Thompson.
Ricardo Joseph surged into the Horsham half and fed Harrison but his shot was saved at the expense of a corner. After the ball was cleared Tolfrey held Ashford striker Gavin Smith down while striking him but Mr Cook pathetically gave nothing more than a dropped ball. This prompted a gradual deterioration in the behaviour of both sets of players with bouts of shirt pulling and enthusiastic tackling.
Tony Nwachukwu had the chance to put his side three up in the later stage of the match, but a great point blank save by Burgess and a good block by Jackson stopped him. Then to make a bad day even worse, the visitors lost Scott Weight to a knee injury which could keep him out for some time.