Ryman League Premier Division,
|Ashford won for the first time in four matches to ease their relegation fears and keep their Sussex visitors in the scrap to stay up. There was little to choose between the teams in an open and absorbing first half, but the Tangerines took hold of the game after the break to secure a valuable and morale-boosting victory.
The Hornets started in a lively fashion, although the first shot on goal was from Ashford’s Ricky Wellard, whose effort was well saved by Rob Tolfrey. Moments later, Horsham’s Reggie Savage had a shot saved by the feet of home stopper Craig Ross. After the home side withstood this pressure they enjoyed something of a purple patch, with Byron Harrison and Brett Cooper stretching the Horsham back line.
As the first half developed, the game became an end to end contest, with both sides attacking with vigour. Claude Seanla fired over the Ashford bar in the twenty-fifth minute, while seconds later Savage shot over after Ross was muscled out of claiming a cross by Seanla.
Ashford did have the ball in the net two minutes before the interval, when Scott Harris flicked the ball into the path of Byron Harrison, whose tidy finish was ruled out for offside.
Three minutes into the second period, some crisp Ashford passing gave Warren Harris a sight of goal, but the winger’s shot was straight at Tolfrey. Two minutes later, Harrison shrugged off two fouls to deliver an incisive cross from the right, only for Tony Nwachukwu to clear. From the resultant corner, Ashford had a couple of half chances but of more significance was an injury to visiting defender Yinka Salaam who, having landed awkwardly, was forced to leave the field on a stretcher.
The Hornets were struggling to contain Ashford, with Anthony Joseph and Wellard (pictured) both forcing saves from Tolfrey before Ashford took the lead on the hour. Scott Harris had a little help from his brother, Warren, to spring the offside trap and duly delivered a fierce shot, which took a deflection that wrong-footed the stopper and hit the net.
After this, Ashford took control of the match and played some fine football with the Harris brothers and Wellard at the forefront. However, the second goal did not arrive until thirteen minutes from time and when it did, it was a fine effort. Luke Pigden burst through the visiting defence and found Byron Harrison who turned and fired into the top right corner from the edge of the box.
Ashford continued to press and should have been awarded a penalty five minutes from time when Tony Acheampong handled a Joseph cross. However, with Referee Quelch unsighted and Assistant Referee Smith five yards behind the play (as he had been all evening), no spot kick was awarded. However, Acheampong did concede a penalty in the final minute of the match when he clumsily felled Harrison, who was otherwise through on goal. The visiting defender escaped with a caution, while Harrison picked himself up to blast the ball past the motionless Tolfrey to seal a vital win for his team.