Middlesex Senior Cup Semi Final,
|Ashford Town have never played in the Middlesex Senior Cup Final, and may never get a better opportunity to reach the showpiece match than the one they spurned so emphatically at Short Lane. Given a home tie against a side who are mid-table at the level below their own and who have conceded 72 goals in 30 League matches, it was the Tangerines who saw their back line terrorised. Mark Butler fielded a strong line up for his side’s fifth match in nine days but admitted afterwards that he was “embarrassed” by their performance.
As they had the previous midweek against Kingstonian, Ashford took the lead in the opening minute thanks to Warren Harris surging down the left and firing in a low cross. The differences in this case were that on this occasion, it was Byron Harrison (pictured)whose shot hit the back of the net and that it was even quicker, at 31 seconds, than Scott Harris’ effort five days earlier.
Sadly, that was as good as it got for the home side as the visitors responded within two minutes. AFC Hayes hit their hosts on the counter attack and Dean Clark drove across Craig Ross’ goal from the left.
It got worse for the hosts in the fifteenth minute when they failed to deal adequately with a corner and Dean Papali responded with a shot that Ross got his hands to but was unable to keep out. Brett Cooper had a shot saved by Hayes keeper James Harry as Ashford tried to secure an immediate equaliser but the next goal again went to the visitors as a result of a fast break. Again, it was Clark who scored for the Brook, having been left completely unmarked.
In the 33rd minute, Ashford’s woes were intensified when Jon Palmer left the field with an injury to be replaced by Scott Harris. The home side enjoyed a brief revival soon afterwards, with a free-kick headed off the line and Harrison firing just wide. Ashford suffered another injury blow three minutes before half time, when Paul Johnson’s problem knee again flared up.
Whatever Mark Butler said to his troops at the interval clearly had some effect, as Town laid siege to the visitors’ goal. Scott Harris and Ricky Wellard both shot wide, before a Warren Harris cross eluded both his brother and Brett Cooper. Youngster Moses Phillips also had two opportunities, one of which was saved by Harry.
An Adam Logie throw caused chaos in the 65th minute and eventually hit the post, but for all their opportunities Ashford had not tested the goalkeeper enough and they were made to pay for their profligacy in the 71st minute when another rapid counter attack gave Victor Osubo a good opportunity, which he took with some relish.
Although both sides had chances to score after that – Logie and Harris going close for Ashford and Osubo hitting the post for AFC Hayes, the game was over as a contest and it was AFC Hayes who took the acclaim of both sets of supporters at the final whistle.