Mark Bitmead announced his return to Ashford in some style as he notched a hatrick in a 4-1 victory at old rivals Chipstead on Saturday. The home side had enjoyed a good away win the previous week at Chalfont St. Peter who don’t lose many at home, so the Tangerines expected a tough game and it was certainly end to end in the opening stages.
There had been half-chances at both ends but it was Ashford who took the lead on 22 minutes when good work by Tommy Brunton put Bitmead through and he made no mistake as he outwitted the keeper. Bradley Wilson then had two chances to increase the lead but the pacey forward put his first effort just over the bar when it seemed he had done everything right and he then had the ball in the net, only to be judged offside.
Nothing could be taken for granted although Ashford seemed to be getting on top but there were no further goals before half-time, the only major incident being an accidental knock sustained by keeper Allen who carried on but was never fully mobile again.
Chipstead had their opportunities also but their shooting was wayward and Ashford were good value for their lead at the break. Just nine minutes into the second half though, the lead was doubled when Bitmead wriggled free on the left. He was not shut down and fired in a low effort which hit the far post on its way to the back of the net.
Ashford were running the show at this point and just six minutes later, it was three. The energetic Wilson chased a long diagonal ball and an immediate and well directed cross found the head of James Cottee who opened his account for the season with a crisp effort.
Chiptsead did not lay down and Ashford’s cause was not helped by their conceding of too many free kicks in dangerous areas. Sure enough, on 67 minutes a superb curling free kick to the far post was headed back across goal and in by the home side’s Luke Elliott. That gave them renewed impetus but it was extinguished within two minutes with arguably the best goal of the game. A long cross field ball from Bitmead found the ever running Wilson on the right flank and his immediate cross was turned in at the far post by Bitmead who had kept on running. It was an impressive opportunist goal as it restored the three goal lead and Bitmead deserved the “Ashford Man of the Match” Honour, as he notched yet another hatrick in Ashford colours.
Chipstead refused to lay down though and in stoppage time, they pulled another one back to make the final score 2-4 in Ashford’s favour. It was a ball that looped over Allen and one that he might have saved with full mobility. As it was he was just unable to get to Dan Moody’s effort.
Chipstead’s hospitality was as excellent as ever and it was a happy Ashford band who now look forward to the Velocity Cup, 1st Round match on Tuesday evening at home to Hayes & Yeading. Before that though there is a hastily arranged friendly match on Sunday afternoon, when Ashford Ladies entertain Bethnal Green Ladies in a pre-season friendly, kick-off 2.00 p.m.