Sutton subdue Ashford
Ryman League Premier Division
The first ever league meeting between these two sides ended in a victory for the hosts, who failed to capitalise on a dominant first half yet secured their win at a time when Ashford looked the better team.
Early Sutton United pressure resulted in a series of corners and the home team took the lead after six minutes. It was the last of these set pieces which allowed the hosts to send in a header which swirled upwards and dropped just under the bar. Paul Burgess was hemmed in with a mass of bodies being unable to connect cleanly with his punch, the ball somehow found it’s way over the line with Craig Dundas being credited with the final touch. Ashford tried to get back into the game and in the 11th minute Paul Johnson had their first serious attempt with a long range shot that swirled wide of the home goal.
In the 12th minute Sutton missed a great chance to increase their lead when 2 players seemed to get in each others way resulting in a free header from inside the six yard box going wide of goal. Ashford gained some respite from the Sutton United pressure with a free kick from 25 yards taken by Paul Johnson which looked likely to dip inside the far post but was turned behind for a corner by Darren Bechet. Sutton continued to have the better of things with several quick attacks unsettling the Ashford defence. After 25 minutes a typical long throw by Guy Hollis caused a problem for Sutton as it travelled right through the penalty area without anyone being able to get a touch on the ball. Sutton hit back with a shot on 30 minutes that came back into play off the far post when it had seemed certain to be a goal.
In time added on at the end of the first half Ashford equalized when Paul Johnson (pictured) hit a powerful free kick from 30yards high into the net, ensuring that Ashford went in for tea level when they could have easily been 3-1 behind.
Ashford started the second half a lot better than the first and after early pressure, the visitors had a good opportunity on 52 minutes. Byron Harrison intercepted a back pass, rounded Bechet but was forced wide in doing so and was unable to pick out any supporting players with the ball going across the penalty area with the goalie out of position. At this stage Ashford were beginning to take control of the midfield and began passing the ball well culminating in Byron Harrison bursting through on goal only for Bechet to make a good save at his feet.
Almost immediately afterwards and somewhat against the run of play Sutton regained the lead when Bechet had time to control an aimless long ball forward, advance well outside of his area and pass the ball to Gavin McCallum who drilled his shot home from the edge of the area. Ashford tried hard to get back into the game with a couple of dangerous free kicks from Paul Johnson the first of which saw a penalty appeal for handball turned down.
Sutton now began to dominate as the game entered the last 20 minutes and Ashford made their first substitution with Scott Harris coming on for Gavin Smith, another long throw from Guy Hollis nearly produced an equaliser when the ball was headed on by Harrison and hit the chest of Gavin Bamford and went wide of the goal after 78 minutes. In the next minute Ashford were very nearly caught napping at a quickly taken free kick whiah was fired narrowly wide by Sutton. Warren Harris then fired narrowly wide as Ashford replied but in the next minute a long ball upfield from Sutton was fired home by Matt Hannwho had been a threat all night.
Sutton then made two substitutions, replacing McCallum and Hann with Gvin Heeroo and Steve West while Ricky Wellard was replaced by Adam Logie for Ashford. Paul Johnson was booked for dissent in the 86th minute and another long throw by Guy Hollis which was only half cleared Ashford came close to reducing the defecit as Gavin Bamford’s shot went wide.
All in all a strange match in many ways as Sutton should have been two or three goals to the good at half time but although winning deservedly both their second half goals came after Ashford had been on top and playing quite well.