Ryman League Premier Division,
Predictably Mark Butler stuck with the starting line-up that has served the club so well in the last few games, the only change being on the bench where club captain Gavin Bamford, back after suspension, replaced Scott Weight.
Ashford very nearly made a dream start in the blustery windy conditions, a long throw on the right by Adam Logie was nodded back to Byron Harrison who met the ball on the half-volley but saw his effort sail over Joe Welch’ bar.
Hendon were always regarded as Ashford’s biggest challenge for the first four games and so it proved as they created pressure and, for a time, pushed the Ashford defence back. Paul Burgess found himself busier than at any time this season and was forced into action to parry a solid shot from Lubomir Guntchev, in the 10th minute with Chris Bangura hammering the rebound over.
Mark Kirby looked very impressive at the heart of the Hendon defence and, in the 14th minute, took time out of his duties to set up a dangerous attack with a superb pass the length of the pitch into the path of Sam Byfield who took the ball in his stride and crossed in one movement only to see the ball elude his strikers.
With the game poised it was anybodies guess who would score first and we found that out in the 25th minute. An astute pass down the right by the excellent Vinnie O’Sullivan was latched on to by Harrison whose oblique run had beaten the Hendon off-side trap, Harrison cut inside his marker, drew the keeper and slid the ball past him to put Ashford a goal up.
Chances fell to Byfield, Casey Maclaren and Bangura before, in first half stoppage time, Ashford increased their lead. A free kick for a foul on Warren Harris by Craig Vargas was played short to Harris by Ricky Wellard, Harris’ shot was blocked but the ball fell to brother Scott (pictured)whose shot took a wicked deflection off a defender and flew over Welch’s head and under the bar.
The visitors survived a scare shortly after the restart when Paul Burgess lost control of the ball and in picking it up gave away a freekick on the edge of his penalty area, Burgess was then obliged to make a full length diving save to keep out the resulting kick. But then Ashford took there tally to 3 to take the game effectively beyond Hendon’s grasp. Vinnie O’Sullivan sent another excellent pass forward to Harrison who held the ball up before laying it into the path of Scott Harris who shot home.
Harris should have completed a fine personal hattrick on the hour when he won a contested ball with Marc Leach and found himself one on one with Welch but took the ball too close and allowed the keeper to save at his feet.
Hendon substitute Danny Dyer looked lively when he came on and forced a good take from Burgess who was under pressure from fellow substitute James Bent, then had two chances himself bringing out another good save by the veteran Ashford keeper late in the game.
This win was probably more satisfying than the others so far this season, and that is to take nothing away from them, but Hendon are always a difficult side to break down. Not many teams will go to Claremont Road and claim all three points as Ashford have done for the first time in their history.