Surrey Senior Cup Final,
“Rick Wellard, Wellard
Sung to the tune of Que sera sera, it’s a catchy little number, and that’s what was echoing round the Imber Court stadium for much of the second half of this match. Quiet during the first half, apart from a few forays into the Woking half and one or two nifty passes to colleagues, Ricky Wellard suddenly awoke, like a dormouse roused from hibernation and from then until the final whistle, the game was his to control as he wished.
A probing pass there, a turn and mazy run here, Woking had no answer as Wellard and his team mates gradually clawed their way back into the game. Even the excellent Giuseppe Sole, a singularly dangerous man indeed, was eclipsed as Wellard, aided and abetted by a superb display from Adam Logie, took control of the centre of midfield.
It took a while for the Isthmian Premier League side to get to grips with the physical presence and speed of play of their Blue Square Conference opponents and they were grateful on more than one occasion for the intervention of Craig Ross in the Ashford goal who pulled off a series of tremendous saves throughout the match starting before even one minute had been recorded when saved from Wilfried Domoraud.
A free kick from Wellard was played into the Woking danger zone where it ricochet around before being cleared then a run through the Ashford midfield ranks by Sole gave Ross another chance to shine. Ashford breathed a collective sigh of relief, soon after, when Aneon Cousins played a one-two with Joel Ledgister before firing the ball across Ross only to see his low shot strike the inside of the post and rebound out where it was safely cleared.
Referee Mr Sheldrake, whilst maintaining a decent standard of control throughout, was guilty of making one or two strange decisions, the first of which was his cautioning of Wellard for an innocuous challenge that barely warranted a free kick.
With Woking looking the stronger, the wide threat of Warren Harris and Ricardo Joseph failed to materialise as they were kept gainfully employed attempting to keep Ledgister and Charlie Moone quiet so it was somewhat against the run of play when Ashford found themselves with two chances in the same amount of minutes. First a good ball out of defence was bought under instant control by Byron Harrison who turned and fed his strike partner Scott Harris, but a timely tackle by Dan Sintim got the ball away, then, in the 23rd minute, Ricardo Joseph sent Harrison away and he drew Ross Worner off his line before tucking the ball away into the corner of the net to give the Middlesex side the lead.
The ecstasy of the Ashford supporters, in fine voice and ably led by the Club Lout, to give him his official title, had barely died down when a mix-up in defence gifted Woking a quick equaliser, Moone taking advantage of Ross being on the ground to lift the ball over him.
Ashford suffered more bad luck soon after when they were forced into their first substitution of the evening when top scorer Harrison limped off, seemingly having twisted his knee as he turned, to be replaced by Jon Palmer.
Domoraud had tried several shots from long range and, at times, had caused Ross to have to make a save, but most of his shots flew over the bar allowing breathing space for Ashford. With Logie ‘encouraging’ his team to raise their game while he, himself rampaged around the midfield like a demented water buffalo tackling everything in sight, Ashford started to gain a foothold and Palmer just failed to profit from a Wellard free kick late in the half.
Expectations in the Ashford camp were cautiously understated as the teams got the second half under way, but those same expectations were severely dented four minutes in when Sole demonstrated the Cristiano Ronaldo art of free kick taking with a brilliantly struck effort that dipped and moved as it eluded the game Ross to nestle comfortably in the back of the net.
Two-one down against a Conference side and chasing the game. What were the odds of coming back from that (I’m sure one of our chaps more used to the odd wager will enlighten me), but come back they did but not before more heroics from Craig Ross who saved a volley from Domoraud then tipped a good effort from Moone over the bar.
Worner kept out a Wellard free kick, tipping over at the cost of a corner, but the young midfield schemer was not to be denied. Logie launched one of his long throws into the Woking penalty area, in the 73rd minute, where players of both sides sought to gain the advantage, but it fell to Warren Harris who rolled the ball out to the waiting Ricky Wellard who struck a rising, venomous left-footed shot beyond the bemused Worner from 30 yards for the equaliser. Cue tangerine delirium.
As Ashford pushed up looking for a winner, a break by Sole had to be dealt with by the superb defensive partnership of skipper Billy Jeffreys and Michael Peacock who launched the ball up to where Harris was waiting, Harris fed Gavin Smith who saw his shot fizz just wide.
It may sound as if it was all Ashford in the last quarter of an hour, but then, I’m biased. Woking had their fair share of possession and certainly gave us in the stands a nervous time, perfectly illustrated by Jeffreys having to head off his own goal line from a corner and Ross being obliged to stretch to reach a good effort from Sole.
Logie took time out from harassing the Woking midfield to send in another enormous throw, in the eighty-seventh minute, the ball bounced around agonisingly before Jon Palmer pounced to hit a left footed shot as he swivelled to send the ball into the net at the far post and the cup back to Short Lane for the first time in it’s history.
Proud Ashford manager Mark Butler, looking resplendent in his demob suit, could not hide his delight and he can be justifiably proud of the fact that he has won the club their very first senior cup to go with sustaining their position in what is a very competitive league.
Thanks must be given to those at Met Police for their fantastic hospitality, to Woking FC commiserations on losing their status in the Conference and thanks for being such magnanimous losers, it’s certainly not easy.