Zamaretto League, Central Division
Another first, and possibly last, this week for Ashford at Atherstone Town in North Warwickshire. This was the first visit by an Ashford team to Atherstone and probably the last as they have resigned from the Southern League effective at the end of the season due to the high cost of travel.
Ashford player/manager Jamie Lawrence continued with 17year olds Max Webb and Joe Green in the squad with Webb taking his place alongside the Boss in the starting line-up.
The visitors got off to a dream start when, after just Four minutes, skipper Billy Jeffreys, sporting a smart new haircut that looked as if it had been cut by Stevie Wonder, converted Jamie Lawrences low freekick from close range after Martynas Butkas had been bought down.
For the home side Craig Tucker had an early chance but blasted over Paul McCarthy’s bar before Lawrence and Isaiah Rankin swapped passes to find Butkas in space. Spencer Taffurelli headed the Ashford fullbacks cross past the post for a goal kick.
Ashford left back Samad Kazi was the first of six cautions and a sending off in this match when, after a surge down the wing he merely challenged for a fifty-fifty ball with Tom Allen in the Adders’ goal.
The half progressed with neither side gaining the ascendency then, on twenty five minutes, a ball played in from the Atherstone right found Dale Farley who displayed a fine first touch and turn but saw his shot sail well wide.
Rankin showed his experience and vision firing a good cross-field ball into the feet of Kazi on the left who squared the ball inside to Lawrence, the Ashford midfielder took one touch before blasting a powerful shot into Allen’s midriff.
After another spate of cautions by pedantic referee Mr Kuzmanovic, Farley again tested McCarthy but the big Ashford keeper was the equal to his shot but the home side gained parity shortly after when Tucker pounced on a cross from the Atherstone right to send a viscous shot past McCarthy to send the teams in at half time all square.
Early in the second half Russ Canderton, eager to emulate his central defensive partner Billy Jeffreys, was found loitering around the Atherstone penalty area by a Christian Nanetti corner but sliced his left-footed volley wide then, two minutes later, Nanetti danced past the challenges of Matt Selvestre and Lewis Gorle before delivering a good cross into the Atherstone area where the ball was cleared to the waiting Canderton who, requiring finishing lessons from his skipper, once again failed to hit the target.
Ashford regained the lead on the hour. A long throw from the right by Canderton eluded all until it reached Taffurelli who, using every inch of his six foot five inch frame, got up to nod the ball over Allen and into the Atherstone net.
The match was held up for 13 minutes, shortly after, as Atherstone’s Ben Harrison fell awkwardly following a clash of heads with Taffurelli, dislocating his ankle. All at Ashford Town wish him well for a speedy recovery. Harrison was replaced by Adrian Perry.
A good interchange of passing between Rankin, Taffurelli and Lawrence culminated in the latter’s forceful shot being taken low down by Allen then, at the other end, McCarthy made two awesome saves in the space of two minutes, firstly diving full length to tip a goal-bound Liam Bailey effort round his post for a corner, then executing a similar save to deny the hosts from the head of Farley.
Ashford very nearly increased their lead shortly after when Lawrence flicked the ball on from another Canderton long throw, this time it was Max Webb that seized the chance but his over-head shot cannoned off the home side’s bar to safety. Taffurelli headed over from a similar chance shortly after.
Ashford did eventually score a third and it came from the penalty spot. Rankin chased a long ball out of defence from Jeffreys and reached it just before Allen who took the Ashford striker out. The referee had no hesitation in awarding the penalty and dismissing the Atherstone keeper. Nanetti stepped up to coolly send substitute keeper George Woodward the wrong way to give his side a two goal advantage.
Jamie Lawrence had a similar chance minutes later when, showing an excellent turn of pace, he chased down another ball over the top of the Atherstone defence but pulled out when he could easily have clattered Woodward who had bravely dived at the former Bradford City midfielder’s feet.
Referee Mr Kusmanovic correctly allowed eighteen minutes of time added due to the injury to Harrison plus goals and substitutions but neither side added to the score-line, Nanetti and Theron Wood had half-chances foiled by Woodward.
Ashford’s remaining three league games this season are at Slough Town on Tuesday followed by their last home match, Marlow, next Saturday and finally away to Bedfont Town on Easter Monday as they aspire to end the season with a flourish.