Zamaretto League, Central Division
Ashford’s introduction to the Zamaretto League did not go quite to plan at Short Lane on Saturday. Despite dominating much of the possession, during this rain affected match, Jamie Lawrence’s men struggled to find a cutting edge. Mitigating circumstances may be postulated as Jamie fielded six debutants who, as a subsequence, have had just a handful of pre-season friendlies to get to know one another.
The manner of the way the goals were scored will be another subject of frank discussion by the Ashford management team, and I take nothing away from a game Leighton side who, as voiced by some of their supporters, were gifted two of the three goals by a very generous defence.
The match was played in atrocious conditions with torrential rain in the first half making the surface treacherous but Ashford started well forcing an early corner, taken by Jamie Lawrence, which was blasted over by Chamal Fenelon then Fenelon embarked on a run down the right latching on to a well weighted ball from skipper Russ Canderton before shrugging off the attentions of Peter Clifford and sending a low cross across the face of the visitors goal mouth.
It was completely against the run of play when Leighton, with what was their first meaningful attack of the match, took the lead. A corner from the right was sent to the undefended far post where Ben Gallant rose to plant a header against the Ashford bar but, unfortunately for the home side, the ball rebounded off of Jim Mann and in to his own net.
Fenelon made ground down the right soon after but his cross was a touch too high for Jones Awuah then, on another counter attack, Lewis McBride raced past Ashford’s Kayode Oladipo but delivered his cross just behind his strikers.
Ashford put together a good move when Luke Hickie, Jordan Kiffin and Scott Weight combined to set up Fenelon on the left but the big striker curled his cross wide then Lawrence won a decisive challenge in midfield and crossed to the far post but the ball was just nicked off the head of Awuah by Sam Chapman.
A quick counter, on 28 minutes, ended with Leighton doubling their advantage, Gallant found himself in acres of space as he bore down on Lee Pearce, the Ashford keeper. Gallant coolly waltzed round Pearce and slotted the ball into the empty net.
The match effectively ended as a contest, five minutes later, when Pearce slipped as he tried to play a short pass out to Guy Hollis, the ball ran free to Aidan Murray who curled it back into the empty net via the far post for Leighton’s third.
Ashford had a chance to pull a goal back in the 42nd minute when Lawrence was pushed over on the edge of the Leighton penalty area but Fenelon blasted his free kick against the defensive wall then, on the stroke of half time, Lawrence had a shot saved by Kevin Marsh, the Leighton keeper.
Despite having had more of the possession in the first half, Lee Pearce was easily the busier of the two keepers and steps were taken at half time to, in some part, shore up the defence by bringing on young Rob Curtis at right back with Guy Hollis moving to left back and Oladipo being sacrificed.
Fenelon continued to rampage around the pitch as the second half got under way managing to rob Jack Copson in a dangerous position out on the right but Awuah couldn’t control Fenelon’s cross then, shortly after, a good through ball from Scott Weight found Awuah on the left but his deft chip went narrowly over Marsh’s bar.
Leighton went close to adding a 4th when a teasing cross from Charlie Cunningham found the head of Gallant, unmarked at Ashford’s far post, but the lively striker couldn’t direct his header goalwards then, at the other end, Mann picked out substitute Lewis Wombwell, on for Jamie Lawrence, with a fine ball but his cross was bravely saved by Marsh at the feet of Awuah.
Awuah and Kiffin had half-chances late in the game, the former firing over from the edge of the penalty area and Kiffin shooting wide.