Ashford found themselves up against league leaders Hayes & Yeading on Saturday, who were coming into the game with a run of nine consecutive wins behind (excluding their eventual defeat in the FA Trophy).
Both teams had players missing but there was a determination about the Tangerines on this occasion, doubtless partly as a result of what had happened at Hayes earlier in the season and the match was only five minutes in when Mark Bitmead gave Ashford the lead. Ashford’s leading striker did so well to bring the ball under control on the left flank and send a low shot across goal into the far corner.
It wasn’t too long before the visitors started to show their credentials and Ashford had Elliott Poley to thank for a superb covering tackle that surely prevented an equaliser. Tyler Tobin had failed to recover in time and Ashford had young keeper Rhys Forster in goal but he belied his youth and was comfortable enough. At the other end James Cottee went close although he didn’t know too much about it as the ball rebounded off him and an end to end match ensued.
There was frustration at times from the H & Y bench, as Ashford took their time when the ball was dead but it did not prevent the eventual equaliser arriving on 36 minutes, when a fierce low effort from Toby Little evaded the efforts of Adam Baigent to keep it out by the foot of the post.
There was no further scoring before half-time as Ashford continued to give as good as they got but to no avail, when in the 75th minute a similar effort from Little to that of Bitmead earlier, found the net to put the visitors 2-1 up.
That may well have clinched the three points for the visitors but it wasn’t to be as Ashford rallied again and with just two minutes of normal time left, it was Bitmead who crashed the ball home, slightly deflected for the equaliser.
Whereas a home draw would not normally be a cause for celebration, it was on this occasion, given the quality of the opposition who still have a six point lead at the top of the table with two matches in hand. The “Hitchcock & King Ashford Man of the Match” award went to keeper Forster and whilst it could have gone to just about anyone in the team it was an appropriate acknowledgment as to how well he had played. It was also Ashford’s highest attendance of the season at 218.
There is no midweek match, probably just as well given the forecast for snow, although Southall are due to be at home on Tuesday evening to Redhill. Ashford’s next match, which promises to present another tough challenge, is away to Westfield next Saturday. Like Bedfont Sports, Westfield have now massively found their feet at this level and will come into the match with five successive wins, a run that has taken them to 5th place in the table.
Unfortunately the Ladies’ match yesterday away to Watford Development was postponed, so the Ladies resume next Sunday at home to Regents Park Ladies, who unfortunately are at the foot of the GLWL table with just a solitary point from their 11 league matches to date. Kick-off is 2.00 p.m.