FA Cup, sponsored by E.ON, 2nd Qualifying Round
Ashford travelled to Bedfordshire, for this FA Cup second qualifying round tie, to Arlesey Town Football Club whom they first met in season 2000/01 when both clubs were promoted to the old Ryman League Division Three. Arlesey went on to run away with the league title that year while Ashford finished a creditable third, and in doing so, gained promotion, along with runners up Lewes, to division two.
Nowadays Arlesey ply their trade in the BGB Southern League Midlands Division where they languish in 19th position with one win from their five league games to date.
For Ashford, Craig Ross continued to occupy the goal keepers position while Brett Cooper, Billy Jeffreys, Russ Canderton and Ricardo Joseph made up the back four. Adam Logie, Ricky Wellard, skipper Gavin Bamford and Warren Harris filled the midfield positions while Scott Todd partnered Byron Harrison up front. Mark Butler promoted three promising members of the youth team, Guy Hollis, James Stanford and goalkeeper Dave Buss to join Wes Goggin, Paul Johnson and Scott Harris on the bench.
The early encounters were fairly even, Byron Harrison had a shot saved while a free kick for a foul by Adam Logie was sent wide of Craig Ross’ far post by Lee Allen.
Ashford started to push forward more as the half wore on and both of the home full backs were kept busy with Shane Brown enjoying a good tussle with Warren Harris. A rash tackle by Matthew Clark on Scott Todd though, saw his name taken before, two minutes later in the 21st minute Ashford took the lead. Todd received the ball wide on the left and burst through two players and into the Arlesey penalty box where a clumsy challenge from behind by Matthew Kimani led to referee Mr McCaul pointing to the spot. Up stepped Ricky Wellard to dispatch the ball past Martin Peat with aplomb.
Quick thinking by Todd, three minutes later, bought a good save out of Peat who had to be alert to tip over the striker’s clever chip then, at the other end Jamie Osbourne picked up a loose ball and found himself with space but Gavin Bamford managed to get back to block the Arlesey striker’s shot.
Osbourne wasted another chance on the half hour when he headed Allen’s deep corner wide then Peat came to the home side’s rescue again, twice blocking shots from Todd before the ball was cleared. Todd very nearly turned creator again when he was the recipient of a tremendous cross-field pass from Billy Jeffreys, and fired over a superb left foot cross which Harris headed over at the far post.
Just before the break Osbourne had another chance that Ross saved with his feet and a cross by Harris bounced off the top of the hosts’ cross-bar.
Within three minutes of the re-start Arlesey had the ball in the back of the Ashford net from a corner but the ‘goal’ was ruled out for a push on Ross. Peat was easily the busier of the two keepers and was again forced into action to dive low to save from Harris but as Ashford pushed forward it seemed a second goal was inevitable and it duly arrived in the 54th minute. Todd played the ball back to Bamford who chipped a teasing ball over the host’s defence to where Brett Cooper was arriving, Cooper crossed low from the right into the feet of Harrison who, back to goal, expertly shielded the ball, turned and fired home.
Those Ashford supporters that hoped that the second goal would kill off their hosts were disappointed as Arlesey pulled one back a minute later. The lively Osbourne burst through the Ashford defence and crossed for Ryan Francis to force the ball past Ross from close range.
Encouraged by the goal and by the strident tones of a very vociferous young lady supporter, Arlesey went looking for the equaliser but Ashford rallied. A fine ball from Logie found Canderton in an advanced position but his cross was missed by all.
Canderton, in his usual role of defender, dispossessed Osbourne and sent substitute Wes Goggin, on in place of Logie, away down the left, Goggin played the ball into fellow sub Paul Johnson, on for Todd, who shot just over. Mark Butler sent on Scott Harrisfor his brother Warren for the final quarter of an hour and within five minutes the prolific striker had increased his team’s advantage. Johnson found Harris who had made a run from deep, Harris juggled the ball over Peat, then a defender before tapping into the empty net.
Four minutes later it was that man Harris again. A superbly weighted ball from Bamford found Goggin speeding down the right flank who barely broke his stride before crossing to the far post where Harris rose to head powerfully home.
As expected Arlesey fought until the final whistle but the extra class and vision of the Ryman Premier League outfit told in the end. Arlesey felt that they should have had a penalty but referee McCaul was of the opinion that the player went down too easily. Ashford continue on the FA Cup road with a good performance where Brett Cooper, Ricky Wellard (in the first half particularly) and Byron Harrison stood out, Monday lunchtime will be interesting.