Stones rolled over by Tangerines
Ryman League Premier Division,
Mark Butler was set to retain the eleven that started at Hastings for this match but his plans were thwarted when it was deemed that the injury carried by goal keeper Craig Ross was sufficiently severe to prevent him from donning the number one shirt. Instead, in came Paul Burgess, recently back from holiday, a veteran of well over 600 appearances for the Short Lane side.
Early exchanges were even, Paul Johnson sent a fizzing free kick wide after Warren Harris had been fouled and a shot from the in-form Byron Harrison went the same way while Kieron Forbes replied for the visitors from a cross by Alan Massey.
Ashford took the lead in the thirteenth minute when Harrison (pictured) beat the Wealdstone off-side trap and ran through on to a Ricky Wellard pass to lob the advancing Sean Thomas then, two minutes later, Wellard had Thomas scrambling across goal to save a low shot at the foot of the post that looked goal-bound.
Ben Alexander went close for Wealdstone just before the half hour mark from a cross from the right but could only flick his header wide and the same player had an even better chance to gain parity for his team ten minutes later when he found himself one-on-one with Burgess but shot well wide of the target.
The visitors had another opportunity when Graeme Montgomery sent over a teasing cross that eluded Burgess, and it took a goal-saving challenge from skipper Paul Johnson on Alexander to maintain the score-line in Ashford’s favour.
Forbes directed a back-pass straight to Harrison, just before the break and the rangy striker advanced on goal but instead of testing Thomas he took one touch too many and the chance was gone then, straight after the restart, Harrison latched on to a long ball out of the Ashford defence only to shoot over Thomas’ bar from close range.
Wealdstone pushed on and had a good period of pressure which gave Stuart Bamford and Billy Jeffreys the opportunity to show their considerable defensive abilities, but chances still fell to the visitors with Ryan Ashe firing over from close in and Alexander forcing a superb save from Burgess.
A slide rule pass from Wellard found Scott Harris whose powerful shot was blocked then, former Wealdstone stalwart, Stuart Bamford was cautioned for a foul, much to the delight of the jeering ‘Stones’ supporters.
A good passage of play starting in the Ashford midfield by Wellard culminated in Thomas being obliged to bravely save low shots at the feet of Johnson and Adam Logie in quick succession before, in the sixty-ninth minute, the hosts increased their lead. Warren Harris danced down the wing and crossed to Logie who nodded the ball down to Scott Harris. The older Harris juggled the ball and shot on the turn but the ball was deflected into the path of Harrison who accepted the chance and gleefully shot home.
Ashford’s lead lasted all of three minutes. A foul by Jeffreys was punished by a caution but, worse still, from the consequential free kick, Alexander forced the ball past Burgess to reduce the deficit to set up a nervous last fifteen minutes for the hosts’
Ashford held on to record their second victory of the campaign and in doing so, elevate themselves to an early fourth place in the League.