Ashford Town (Middlesex) 2
Wingate & Finchley 4

FA Trophy 1st Qualifying Round Replay,
Short Lane Stadium
21st October 2008

This was more than just a ‘bad day at the office’ as Ashford’s usually solid defence went AWOL. There was no involvement for top scorers Byron Harrison and Scott Harris and central defender Stuart Bamford while other first team regulars Warren Harris, Ricky Wellard and Brett Cooper were unused substitutes as Mark Butler rested key players ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup 4th Round Qualifying tie against Conference side Forest Green Rovers.

Notwithstanding that, the players bought in are all experienced at Ryman Premier League level and should have seen off the exuberant challenge of their Division One North rivals who thoroughly deserved this victory and we wish them well for the remainder of the season.

The writing was on the wall as early as the 10th minute, similar to Saturday, when Wingate took the lead.  A corner on the Ashford right, the first of the night, was swung in with pace by Tim Lees on to the head of the unmarked Marvin Samuel who made no mistake from 10 yards. Seven minutes later it should have been two when, in an identical situation, Lees sent over another corner kick towards the blond head of Samuels but, again unchallenged, he managed to miss the ball.

Wingate had better luck on the half hour when, what looked a decent tackle by Scott Weight was penalised by the pedantic referee. Lees played the ball into the area, Chris Chase failed to get a touch, and the ball found the back of the net to double Wingate’s advantage.

Ashford played some good football but the breakthrough did not materialise, Gavin Smith hooked a shot wide after a good run by Vinnie O’Sullivan and Scott Todd had a weak shot saved following a good build up involving Ricardo Joseph and Paul Johnson.

A foul on Todd, in the 40th minute, gave the hosts a free kick on their left where Todd played the ball into the danger area but it was cleared downfield where Wingate forced a corner. Up stepped Lees, again, to send over another inswinging ball which was scrambled into the back of the Ashford net by Craig Ellis to send the visitors in 3 goals up at the break.

Several players, from both sides’ went into the referee’s book as every minor misdemeanour, real and perceived, were punished with the game being bought to a halt on every occasion. When will referees realise that the paying customer is there to watch the players and NOT the officials.

If the game was not beyond recovery for Ashford up till now, in the 61st minute it surely was as Wingate scored their 4th as Ashford’s defensive frailties showed themselves again. A run down the left by Chase gave him space to square the ball into Ola Williams but the ball ran behind him. Williams got the ball under control and shot but the ball fell nicely into the path of Lees who poked the ball past Craig Ross and into the net.

Ashford pulled a goal back in the 83rd minute when Todd, whose work-rate could not be criticised on the night, received the ball wide on the right, looked up to see Gavin King off his line, and hit a 30 yard screamer toward the far top corner of the net. King made a valiant effort to keep the ball out, touching it onto the inside of the post, but it rolled into the far corner.

Two minutes later, a good turn and pass by Adam Logie into the feet of Gavin Smith gave the Ashford striker the chance to pull another goal back but, with King beaten, the ball rolled agonisingly wide of the far post.

Ashford substitute Jon Palmer sent an acrobatic over-head kick just wide and a shot by the lively Chase suffered the same fate at the other end before, in time added on, Ashford scored their second. A free-kick in his own half by O’Sullivan found Smith who touched it into the path of Palmer. Palmer, with his back to goal, turned and fired a curling shot beyond King and into the far corner of the net.

Had Palmer’s goal been scored some half an hour earlier, it may have sparked a renaissance but it was too late and Ashford departed this particular competition, however, if they manage to force a result on Saturday it will be considered, by some, to have been worthwhile.

The Forest Green officials that were present would have taken little intelligence regarding Ashford back and just maybe will breed a little over-confidence…we shall see!!!