Zamaretto League Central Division
Ashford, missing several 1st teamers, fought back from being two goals down to gain a creditable draw against a strong Burnham side in a match where a stiff breeze blowing the length of the pitch caused uncertainty in the direction of the ball every time it was pumped up into the air.
The visitors took a 7th minute lead courtesy of a Craig O’Connor penalty after Ashford skipper Billy Jeffreys had collided with Burnham’s Mitch Woodward and that culminated in the game being held up for several minutes while both players received treatment.
O’Connor was picked out by Jake Parsons shortly after and his back flick found Tom Collins in space but the Burnham winger’s shot sailed wide of Paul McCarthy’s right hand post.
Ashford were on the back foot at this time but made the occasional sortie into the opposition half where Christian Nanetti was proving himself to be more than a nuisance to the Burnham defence. Nanetti found Isaiah Rankin, on 18 minutes, on the left and he traded passes with Jamie Lawrence before delivering a cross that was defended at the cost of a corner. Nanetti’s corner was headed into the arms of Sam Mazurek in the Burnham goal by Jeffreys.
Collins broke through the home side’s defensive ranks only to shoot wide before another challenge forced Jeffreys off with suspected concussion to be replaced by another Under-18 player, Joe Green.
Nanetti found Rankin with a defence splitting ball, on the half hour, and the Ashford striker forced a corner then at the other end, a free kick on the edge of the Ashford penalty area was delivered by Ben Gladwin and smartly taken by McCarthy before Gladwin was cautioned for a challenge on debutant Alex Garcev from behind.
Ashford had a chance to equalise in time added on when Nanetti wriggled through two tackles only to be unfairly stopped by a push from behind. Lawrence fired the resulting free kick into the Burnham defensive wall but the rebound fell to Russ Canderton who shot narrowly wide.
Some half time entertainment was provided by the final of an Ashford Town Juniors penalty contest, the four finalists being Louie Hanks (Under-9s), Muj Khan (U10s), Jamie Dyett (U11s) and Jamie Tilt (U12s) and was won by Jamie Tilt who put five well struck penalties past Under-10s goalkeeper Luke Munns.
As the game re-started Joe Green grew into the job of halting the Burnham left winger Tom Collins and stepping up to senior football to the extent that he certainly did not look out of place and on more than one occasion was called upon to make a vital challenge.
Ashford’s cause was not helped when, in the 57th minute they conceded a second penalty, this time Russ Canderton was adjudged to have bought down Collins. O’Connor stepped up again with the same result.
A 30yard effort from Max Webb fizzed narrowly wide of the Burnham post before, in the 68th minute, Ashford pulled a goal back. Nanetti sent over a corner that was played back to him and he then teed up a low cross that was poked home by substitute Spencer Taffurelli for his first goal for the club.
Ashford, buoyed up by the goal, started to believe that they could get something from the game and that was the case as Connor Moody found the elusive Nanetti on the left with a well weighted pass. The tricky Italian winger ghosted past his marker Ed Chemlal who tripped him inside the Burnham penalty area for the 3rd penalty of the game. Nanetti got up, dusted himself down and confidently dispatched the penalty kick to give his side a share of the points.
Not a classic display by Ashford but a good fight back none the less and, for the second week running, the young players that Jamie has turned to have not let him down which bodes well for the future.