Ryman League Premier Division,
Sad to say, Staines looked stronger, faster and more determined than their West Middlesex rivals, but the degree of effort shown by Ashford was considerable and, on another day when some of the breaks might have gone for them, the team from Short Lane may have manufactured a more successful outcome.
It was a cold but bright day at Pigeon-less Wheatsheaf Park where the hosts fielded Ashford old-boy Richard Butler, and it was he who fired in an early shot which Paul Burgess dealt with but a good counter from Warren Harris found Byron Harrison but he found his way to goal blocked.
Scott Taylor went close for Staines before Burgess (pictured) showed the crowd why he is still the best keeper in the Ryman League with a brilliant double save, firstly blocking Butler’s close range effort then quickly rising to push Taylor’s shot round the post. Saves that even the quiet but partisan Staines crowd politely applauded.
Though generally well marshalled by the returning Stuart Bamford, Butler’s running and finding angles were proving troublesome and he again went close to opening the scoring when he narrowly cleared Burgess’ bar from a Howard Newton pass then, shortly after, Gavin Smith bought down a difficult ball and fed the in-coming Paul Johnson whose low shot was saved at the expense of a corner.
As the game ebbed and flowed neither side seemed to be able to force the breakthrough but Ashford came very close when Ricky Wellard and Warren Harris started a move finding Johnson who laid a superb ball into Smith, and it took a fine save from Staines keeper Louis Wells to keep out the Ashford striker’s curling shot.
Added entertainment was garnered on the half hour mark when a young swan, obviously exhausted, circled the pitch several times before alighting adjacent to a bemused assistant referee who, after suffering the bird following him up the touchline and back, bought the matter to the attention of the referee. The diligent official calmly showed his authority and called for the swan to be dismissed from the ground, this was duly achieved without undue force and the use of firearms and the game continued. We are obliged to Alan Boon, Staines Chairman, who insisted that the incident was enacted for the amusement of the Ashford supporters.
Shortly after, a tremendous save from Wells kept the scores all square when he tipped over Harrison’s close range header from Bamford’s long throw.
The home side took the lead, and it must be said, against the run of play, when a loose pass from Harris was picked up in the Staines half and played out to Newton who advanced before sliding a good pass into the feet of Butler. Butler, under pressure from Bamford, played the ball back to Newton who shot home via the far post. A second goal arrived just one minute later, a free kick was taken some 5 yards from the Ashford penalty area by Lewis Cook taking a wild deflection off the defensive wall and sending Burgess the wrong way.
Ashford’s bad luck was compounded moments later when Brett Cooper was despatched to hospital with a bad head wound, Ricardo Joseph taking his place.
Staines killed the game a minute after half time when the referee awarded them a free kick for a foul on Butler. Cook’s ball in was controlled by Newton but his shot could only be parried by Burgess straight to the feet of Butler who tapped home.
Despite the score line Ashford never gave up looking for a way back into the game but fortune had deserted them, Staines, too, had chances to further increase their goal difference but were happy with the 3 – 0 final score that guarantees them the local area bragging rights for the time being.