The new season is upon us and Ashford start their third spell in the Bostik League with a home match against Hertford Town.
Our first duty is to welcome everyone connected with Hertford Town FC, who visit us for the first time since October 2004, when we met in the 2nd Qualifying Round of the FA Cup. We managed to come out on top that day, winning 3-1, our goals coming from Anthony Eggington, Steve Battams and Andy Frost. That took us through to a 3rd Qualifying Round match away to Aylesbury, where we pulled off a major shock at the time, winning 1-0. It wasn’t so rosy in the 4th Qualifying Round as we lost 0-4 at Hayes, who then travelled to Wrexham in the 1st Round Proper.
We have only met our visitors in one previous season in the League and that was in our very first season in the Isthmian League, 2000-2001 when we drew at home one apiece and won away 3-0.
Last season Hertford finished in 15th place in Division One North of the Bostik League.
As we return for our third stretch in the Isthmian (Bostik) League, it will be interesting to compare life with that in the Southern League. We attended a pre-season meeting last Sunday at Aveley’s new ground and frankly it was quite daunting with all the rules and regulations laid down to us. One area where we mustn’t fall down is to incur cards for dissent as there will be scathing punishments it seems if any club receives too many. On the other hand, there are to be some rich, or fairly rich, rewards for those clubs that finish at or near the top of the “dissent” league and we have already said that if we were to do well in that respect, the money will go to the players as a reward. It would seem also that we will receive frequent visits from league officials which certainly didn’t happen in the Southern League
Pre-season has been problematic this summer, starting firstly with the sad and unexpected loss of our Chairman Dave Baker. We knew he was ill but he had seemed to be doing so well and then suddenly it was all over. Hopefully we will still see plenty of Carmel and Dave’s extended family as they all bought in to the Ashford way. It also means an end to Dave’s sumptuous boardroom cooking after matches which will certainly be missed by many of our visitors not to mention Dan Butler who often had two helpings.
On the field, as supporters will know, various of our stalwarts have moved on in the summer, mostly to try their luck at Step 3 and we wish all of them the best and thank them for their valuable service, some over a number of seasons. It has meant that manager Ben Murray has been busy recruiting replacements and the 2-0 win over Farnborough on Monday suggests that they are starting to gel rather well. We welcome all our new players and wish them a happy stay with us. Ben has not wanted to talk too much about them partly as we didn’t want to see them whisked away before they had even started but you will soon get to know them.
There is a double bill of football this weekend as our new ground sharers Southall start their home campaign tomorrow (Sunday) with a home match against Leverstock Green FC in the Extra-Preliminary Round of the FA Cup, kick-off 3.00 p.m. Southall are now in the Combined Counties League, having won their Step 6 Division last season, losing just one league match.