Ryman League Premier Division,
On a day when many of the matches in the Ryman League Premier Division fell prey to the weather, credit must be given to the AFC Hornchurch ground staff who managed to get the pitch playable. Ashford manager Jamie Lawrence named himself in the starting line-up in midfield replacing Jermaine McGlashan who took his place on the bench.
Both teams started brightly, an early chance fell to Jones Awuah from a Paul Johnson through ball but his shot was blocked then Brian Haule executed a good turn and lay off to Awuah who helped the ball on to Warren Harris but the young winger was fractionally off-side.
A long throw on the Hornchurch right was headed wide by Elliot Styles then, from the goal kick, Craig Ross found Brian Haule who cleverly turned his man but sliced his shot well wide. Ashford continued to have a good proportion of the possession with even the full backs, Brett Cooper and Femi Ilesanmi, getting forward, Ilesanmi testing Behcet with a low drive, on 20 minutes that the Hornchurch keeper did well to keep out.
The visitors experienced midfield of Jamie Lawrence and Alain Behi, who, together, boast some 47 international caps for their respective countries Jamaica and the Ivory Coast, were dominating their area of the pitch while the skipper Paul Johnson buzzed around with testing runs and probing passes that set up chances for Haule and Awuah but they were superbly marshalled by Styles and Rickie Hayles.
A dangerous Sam Sloma cross was headed out for a corner by Russ Canderton as Hornchurch broke out of defence then Ilesanmi replied for the visitors after Warren Harris had fended off two challengers to retain possession.
Too often the referee likes to think he is the centre of attention and this pedantic display by Mr Kaye was no exception as he blew his whistle for every perceived misdemeanour, refusing to let the game flow and, as such, frustrating player and supporter alike. One of the first cautions of the afternoon was received by the lively Hornchurch striker Mervin Abraham for an innocuous challenge on Russ Canderton.
Johnson turned up on the right side of midfield and played in Harris, with a delightful pass with the outside of his right boot but the winger’s cross was cut out for a throw. Cooper received the ball from the throw and crossed to the far post where Harris athletically shot over Behcet’s bar.
On the stroke of half time, Sloma slid a good ball down the left for Abraham to run on to, Abraham cut inside and forced an excellent save out of Ross with Lawrence completing the clearance.
Ilesanmi had kept the skilful Tommy Black fairly quiet for the first period but Ross had to be alert to save from the winger’s fizzing effort early in the second half.
The home supporters thought that their team had taken the lead, in the 52nd minute when Sloma’s free kick was headed home by Styles but the assistant referee’s flag was raised for off-side then, shortly after, another free kick, this time for a foul on Ross Wall, was well struck by Jamie Dormer but Ross was equal to it to make another fine save.
After a flurry of substitutions from both sides, Sosthene Yao held up a ball from the Hornchurch left then laid it into the path of Michael Spencer who shot over.
Referee Kaye had signalled a minimum of 5 minutes of time added on and it was in the last of those that the deadlock was finally broken as a corner on the Hornchurch right was headed home by Styles.
Ashford played well enough, against a good side with play-off aspirations, to deserve at least a draw but again came away empty handed. Surely Jamie’s and the team’s luck must change for the better soon, hopefully starting on Monday when Ashford will be seeking retribution after their 1 – 4 defeat earlier in the season against Horsham FC.