Ryman League Premier Division,
Punters pay good money to come and watch their various teams across the country and it’s not a cheap afternoon out. They are entitled to expect a fair match between two sporting sides. Some matches meet that criteria and others, like today’s, teeter on the brink to be influenced by the whims of the match officials. This match was played in a good spirit between two sides that wanted to play football, the physios of which rarely made it onto the playing surface. But, too many soft decisions went the way of the home team while the Ashford players were subjected to the usual antics carried out during a match which the officials for the most part ignored.
Tonbridge started much the stronger with Steve Ferguson linking with Jamie Cade to produce chances for Carl Rook and Paul Booth and using the full width of the pitch where Ferguson and Kirk Watts looked to get crosses over for their strikers.
Sporadic early Ashford attacks were dealt with as the home side kept up the pressure, but as the half wore on, the visitors came more and more into the game. Ricardo Joseph retrieved a short ball from midfield, winning a challenge with Ferguson, then advancing to force the save of the match from Lee Worgan who dived full length to tip Joseph’s full bloodied drive onto the bar and out for a corner.
Soon after, good pressure on Worgan from Warren Harris saw the ‘Angels’ keeper mishit his clearance straight to Adam Logie who headed back into the path of Byron Harrison but the Ashford striker was unable to keep his shot down then, a good break by Billy Jeffreys created another chance for Ashford when he laid the ball into the feet of his skipper Johnson who found Harrison on the left. Harrison held off the challenge of Scott Gooding and squared the ball into the path of Johnson but the shot, once again, was high.
Rook had two chances on the half hour, the first a flick which Craig Ross was quickly down to, after being set up by Cade, then, following a good break by Booth, a mishit shot that failed to trouble Ross.
Johnson, cajoling his team on, was in the thick of the action but a little wayward with his shooting, illustrated by two more shots which he failed to get on target then, at the end of the half, an incisive break by Cade and low shot forced a great block from Ross, Jeffreys completed the clearance as Rook threatened.
Two goals in the first three minutes of the second half set the tone as the game came alive. A long throw by Logie was nodded on by Harrison and Malachi Bulley stole forward to head past Worgan and in off the far post for his first competitive goal for his club, but Ashford’s lead was short lived as Watts crossed from the left and Lee Minshull climbed above the Ashford defence to head the equaliser.
The home team should have taken the lead soon after when Ross managed to break up a dangerous break but the deflected ball fell to Ferguson who crossed only to see Booth miss an open goal.
Ashford regained the lead in the 62nd minute with an excellent run down the left by Joseph who held off the challenge from Ferguson, Joseph beat his man to cut inside but was unceremoniously pulled back for a free kick which prompted ironic cheers from the Ashford bench. Warren Harris’ free-kick was poorly cleared to Johnson who shot just inside the right hand post.
Again, Ashford’s lead was short lived, this time five minutes. A soft free kick was awarded to the home side by Watts and ran through to substitute Gavyn Dayes whose cross was headed home by Rook.
Ross completed two more good saves before Rook shot over from a Cade cross then, in the 91st minute, following a poor attempted clearance out of the visitors defence, the ball was played out to Watts unmarked on the left, he advanced then hit a cross straight at Vinnie O’Sullivan which hit the Ashford defender on the arm and the referee had no hesitation in awarding the penalty which Rook converted.
Editor’s Note: This report is from the personal perspective of the writer and in no way reflects the official view of Ashford Town (Middlesex) Football Club. It is published here as a service to those supportors who were unable to attend the match.