FA Carlsberg Trophy, Second Qualifying Round
|I could not find enough superlatives to adequately describe Saturday’sperformance against Bury Town as the Middlesex side dumped their Ryman Premier League opponents out of this years FA Trophy. Ashford were superior in every department and, in the words of a jubilant Jamie Lawrence after the game, “This was the best performance that the team has produced since I have been here”. Alain Behi and Luke Hickie completely dominated the central midfield while Isaiah Rankin and Jamie Lawrence, himself, gave the Bury central defenders a torrid time with their channelled aggression and
movement off the ball.
Rankin had an early chance, in a rain effected first half, when he attempted an audacious chip over Bury keeper Marcus Garnham but the ball was deflected just wide then a cross from Behi was headed just wide by Jordan Kiffin before the visitors, playing some good football themselves, created a flowing move that Chris Henderson got on the end of but the assistant had his flag raised for off-side.
Russ Canderton intercepted a through ball and played in Rankin but, again, off-side was the verdict then, at the other end Ashford custodian Paul Burgess reacted fast to clear a poor back pass as Lee Reed raced in.
Garnham was easily the busier of the two keepers and he did well to bravely gather the ball just in front of a rampaging Rankin following a good move involving Tom Kanek, Behi and Lawrence with 22 minutes on the clock and again, five minutes later, saving a Hickie free kick then starting a move that gave Sam Reed the chance to break. Reed crossed to Mark Coulson but his shot was blocked.
It was a little against the run of play when Bury took the lead. A free kick, taken some 10 yards further forward than where the incident occurred, was played out to the left then fired into the Ashford penalty area where it struck Jim Mann on the arm, referee Serrano had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and Henderson stepped up to dispatch the kick.
Billy Jeffreys went close with a header from a Hickie corner as the home side looked to get back on level terms and, four minutes later, they did. Rankin intercepted a poor back pass, beat his man and fired the ball home at the far post for his 7th goal of the season in all competitions.
Ashford were fully into their stride now and playing some attractive flowing football, one move, taking the ball from left to right involved Behi into Kiffin back to Behi to Lawrence back to Behi then finally out to Kanek on the right flank whose cross was palmed over by Garnham for a corner.
Bury had reason to be grateful to Garnham yet again, as the half drew to a close, saving from Rankin in a one on one situation then pushing a Lawrence flick round for a corner.
The second half started with Akwasi Edusei having to head clear a cross from the visitors left then Burgess comfortably clutching a free kick from Sam Reed, given for a foul on Henderson.
Ashford continued to press and their effort was rewarded, in the 62nd minute, with what turned out to be the goal that settled the match. Rankin, unintentionally, dummied the ball which rolled to Mann who, spotting Hickie’s run, played a perfectly weighted ball over the top of the defence for the midfielder to run on to and, as Garnham raced off his line to narrow the angle, Hickie used the bounce of the ball to coolly lob the Bury keeper to the delight of the home support.
Bury should have replied minutes later when a cross from Russell Short was headed wide by Craig Nurse with team mate Lee Reed unmarked and who would have had a free header but Ashford, also, had another good chance when Lawrence headed a Canderton free kick wide.
What is thought to be medial ligament damage necessitated a change in the Ashford back line as Jim Mann was forced off to be replaced by Mark Bitmead who moved onto the wing with Kiffin covering the right back position vacated by Mann.
Rankin went close again in the 78th minute, after a good build up with Lawrence, Hickie and Bitmead all involved then Canderton headed just wide a Hickie free kick after Edusei had been unfairly bought down then, with ten minutes remaining, Bitmead ran on to a quick throw by Kiffin but could only watch his shot hit the side netting.
Ashford successfully defended the final attacks that Bury threw at them, as skipper Billy Jeffreys marshalled his men, to go into the hat for the third qualifying round on Monday.