Patched-up Ashford secure memorable away win
Ashford, missing several players including Isaiah Rankin, travelled to Warwickshire to third placed Rugby Town and came away with all three points from what was an enthralling contest and a fantastic advert for non-league football.
The hosts played their part, looking dangerous when in possession but they found the Ashford defence in imperious form, ably led by skipper Billy Jeffreys. The energy shown in midfield by Tom Kanek, Alain Behi, Tyrone Berry and in particular Luke Hickie was what won it for Ashford, as they swamped the challenge from their opponents from that particular area of the field giving strikers Jamie Lawrence and Jones Awuah much needed support and helping to provide a solid defensive platform along with Jordan Kiffin and Rob Curtis, the full backs and Jeffreys and Russ Canderton at the defensive heart. Rugby Town were hoping for the chance to do the double over their visitors following their thrilling 4-3 victory two weeks ago but Jamie Lawrence’s men had other ideas.
Ashford made their usual slow start and an early chance for Paddy Connolly was wasted when he skied his shot and that was answered by the visitors, soon after, Tom Kanek and Rob Curtis combining to set up Jones Awuah who shot wide. The right wing partnership of Jordan Kiffin and Tyrone Berry was paying dividends giving Craig Goodbody a difficult afternoon and the Rugby left back was glad of the assistance of central defender Mel Gourlay who slid in to deny Berry after he had stolen past him. Luke Keen, in particular, was seeing plenty of the ball early on and he had two good chances around the quarter of an hour mark, first latching on to a long ball from his defence and firing over then shooting tamely into the arms of Ashford keeper Paul McCarthy before a great tackle by Jeffreys robbed the Rugby striker of another chance.
|Ashford Town FC
||Rugby Town FC
||Nik Preston (C)
|Billy Jeffreys (C)
||Mr. M Dexter
A great chance went begging for the visitors, half way through the half, when Jamie Lawrence and Berry linked to send Kiffin away on another over-lapping run down the right but his near post cross was missed by all then, a minute later, Lee Parsons sent a vicious shot goalwards that forced a tremendous save out of McCarthy.
A loose ball was picked up by Berry in his own half and he set off down field before releasing to Kiffin who had embarked on yet another overlap but his cross was headed over by Lawrence then the Ashford right back played the ball into the feet of Awuah who tried to tee up Berry but he fired his hastily taken shot wide. After Parsons had volleyed wide from a Richard Wesley free kick, Simeon Smith headed into the arms of McCarthy. The visitors looked the more fired up as the second half started, Lawrence battled hard to set up a chance for Awuah but Nik Preston just managed to clear the ball before Ashford’s top scorer could prosper then Lawrence was again involved when he was the victim of a late challenge, Alain Behi volleyed Luke Hickie’s free kick into the side netting.
A free kick at the other end was headed out as far as Connolly but he wasted the chance to open the scoring by blasting his volley over McCarthy’s bar. Rugby substitute Seb Hamilton nearly announced his arrival in the game as he broke through the Ashford defence but great tracking back by Hickie averted the danger then, shortly after, Curtis caught Stephane with a late challenge, for which he was cautioned.
The free kick was played short to Wesley who sliced his shot well wide. Fellow substitute Tyrone Fagan fired a low shot goalwards but McCarthy was equal to it then, at the other end, Lawrence held the ball up before playing it into Kanek and he, in turn, found Awuah whose goal-bound effort was deflected away for a corner. Lawrence ran on to a good through ball from Russ Canderton but shot narrowly wide then Berry fired a shot into Rugby keeper Dave Clarke’s midriff before the stalemate was eventually broken. Hickie, in possession in midfield, slid a square ball out to Kanek, on the left, and the young winger wasted no time in sending a perfectly weighted ball into the path of Awuah who drew the keeper before coolly slotting the ball into the net to give Ashford a 76th minute lead. Awuah very nearly had a second a minute later but Berry’s cross got stuck under the striker’s feet and the ball was cleared. Late chances for Berry and Awuah came to nothing as Ashford looked to put the game beyond doubt but it finished 1-0 to the visitors who, certainly on the dominant second half display, thoroughly deserved the victory.