Sat 16 Sep 18: Tooting & Mitcham United 2 Ashford 3
Ashford took all three points on Saturday, winning by three goals to two away to Tooting & Mitcham United in their first visit in a competitive match since 2010.
On a beautiful late summer’s afternoon, in front of a sizeable crowd, both sides settled well with both trying to get the ball down and play. Tooting had plenty of pace in their side, especially down their right flank but it was often the case that the neat football on show failed to deliver. Ashford, with Samad Kazi making his first appearance after his motor cycle accident in Thailand in the summer, looked reasonably solid at the back and Elliott Poley, moved over to centre-half in the absence of the unavailable Adam Baigent, was soon making his presence felt with any number of crisp tackles and timely interventions.
The deadlock was broken on 22 minutes when Poley came up for a corner and met a high corner at the far post, heading the ball into the roof of the net to give the Tangerines the lead.
The equaliser arrived some fifteen minutes later when Tooting were awarded a free kick on their right flank when Tom Dilloway was adjudged to have fouled his opponent. It looked a tad harsh from the writer’s position as the Ashford man appeared to have been fouled first himself but Ashford found themselves unable to counter the move that followed that ended with Tooting’s Isaiah Jones levelling the scores.
That lead to a spell of Tooting pressure as the home side seemed to be getting on top but there were no further goals before half-time. As always, it is goals that change games though, and after further even exchanges, Ashford went ahead on 69 minutes when referee Lyle spotted a foul in the area and James Cottee, enjoying a good afternoon slammed it home with great confidence.
The game was then effectively over when, just six minutes later, Max Webb was the recipient of another deft ball from Cottee and he made good use of the fact that he was not closed down, smashing an unstoppable effort home from close range.
From that point, despite their best efforts Tooting did not really look like coming back again despite a mammoth eight minutes of stoppage time, which could have been longer, with both Poley and keeper Tobin both having needed prolonged injury treatment. Tobin in particular was struggling but whereas many clubs would have been pumping in high balls Tooting continued to play their measured football and he was not unduly troubled until we reached stoppage time when Tooting pulled another one back, the assistant ruling that the ball had crossed the line before it was booted clear, although it must have been extremely tight. Scorer was Razzaq De Graft. That was their last fling though and the very welcome three points were in the bag for Ashford.
It could have been safer for Ashford with Mark Bitmead, highly industrious throughout the afternoon, being unlucky to see the ball hit the post when he took full advantage of a poor clearance by the home keeper but Ashford were happy enough with the outcome against a side who played good football with obvious pace at times but lacking, on the day at least, too much of an end product even though they had also hit the woodwork in the first half. Ashford manager Ben Murray was pleased all round with his side’s performance, not least Nebay Haile and Tristan Noel, both coming off the bench and surely knocking on the 1st Team door.
Once again there is no midweek match, so the next game is next Saturday when league leaders Bracknell Town visit Short Lane. This match is being dedicated to the memory of our late Chairman Dave Baker.
Finally, our FA Cup conquerors, Cray Valley were at it again in the FA Cup last week, knocking Merstham out in a replay to reach the 2nd Qualifying Round.