Zamaretto League Central Division
Ashford entertained Hitchin Town on Saturday and gave the league leaders a lesson in finishing, the visitors, fielding 3 of the top 10 goal scorers in the Zamaretto League Central Division, played their part in a great contest but it was Ashford’s top scorer Jones Awuah who took the accolades firing home a brace, one either side of half time, to take his season’s tally to 22 in all competitions.
Rob Curtis, who has impressed while deputising for Jamie Lawrence in midfield, broke down in the warm-up with an Achilles pull and looks doubtful for the remainder of the season, was due to play at left back so Akwasi Edusei continued in the role and had a fine game marauding up and down the flank.
Also included in the starting line-up was Jermaine Brown who developed an instant understanding with his new team mates and served as the perfect foil to his central midfield partner Jordan Kiffin who turned in yet another ‘man-of-the-match’ display.
Martin Bennett was given an early test when, following good work by Brown and Christian Nanetti, he was forced to take Kiffin’s fizzing shot low at the foot of his right hand post but on the very next attack, the home side opened the scoring. On 6 minutes right back Jim Mann skipped past Hitchin’s left back John Bickerstaff and delivered a low cross into the 6 yard box where Jones Awuah was on hand to despatch the ball past Bennett and into the net.
The league’s top scorer John Frendo made his way into the Ashford penalty area minutes later where he went down under the slightest of challenges, but amid jeering from the Ashford supporters referee Mr Jaye waved play on.
Hitchin had a chance to claim an equaliser when a high ball out of the sun caught out Ashford keeper Paul McCarthy who dropped the ball behind him but, fortunately the ball was cleared before Frendo could benefit then a mazy run down the left by Nanetti took him clear of his marker and allowed the winger to pick out Isaiah Rankin with a cross but the Ashford striker’s shot was blocked.
Hitchin picked up the pace and started showing some urgency with a quarter of an hour gone, Frendo combined well with Zak Burke to send Jamie Arlick away down the left but the striker couldn’t add to his goal tally and fired wildly over McCarthy’s bar then, as they continued piling on the pressure, McCarthy was obliged to dive full length to touch a placed Frendo shot wide, the corner being met by the head of Burke who could only direct his header wide.
Rankin showed his strength as he latched on to a long ball from Akwasi Edusei, shrugging off the shirt pulling challenge of Dean Wordsworth, but he rolled his shot (pictured, by Ryan Cutbush) just wide of Bennett’s right hand post then, at the other end, Ashford skipper Billy Jeffreys stretched out a long leg to rob Arlick as he was about to let fly.
Paul McCarthy is not just a superb shot stopper, he sets up attacks as well. One mighty throw on 40 minutes very nearly reached the halfway line where Tom Kanek ran on to the ball advancing ¾ of the way up the pitch before being upended by Tony Fontenelle. Kiffin’s subsequent curling free kick was punched away by Bennett.
Goal number two came along 3 minutes into the second period. Jermaine Brown collected the ball in midfield then sent Nanetti away down the right, this time. Nanetti cut inside and fired in a vicious shot with his favourite left foot that Bennett couldn’t hold, cue the arrival of Awuah who casually chipped the prone Hitchen keeper for his and his team’s second of the match and his 22nd of the season in all competitions.
Isaiah Rankin was giving the Hitchin defenders a very hard time with his industry and ability to hold the ball up and that was illustrated perfectly in the 51st minute when he received the ball from a Russ Canderton throw and then shielded the ball until he was bought down, unfortunately the visitors defensive wall held firm against Kiffin’s free kick.
The usually prolific Arlick latched on to a cross from the Hitchin right, bringing the ball under his control only to see his shot fly over McCarthy’s bar then Brown lobbed the ball over the top of the Hitchin defence for Rankin to volley but Bennett stood up and just managed to pluck the ball out of the air.
Ashford rode their luck, something they have been well short of this season, in scoring their 3rd goal of the afternoon, Kiffin played a ball in to Nanetti and from his shot the ball spun off a defenders boot and looped over the stranded Bennett to tuck itself snugly in to the bottom corner of the Hitchin net.
Frendo had the chance to pull a goal back 3 minutes later, but in-form keeper Paul McCarthy dived low to the foot of his right hand post to tip the striker’s left footed free kick round for a corner.
With 9 minutes of normal time left, a sweeping move by the home side nearly gave the home side another goal to celebrate. Awuah cut in from the right to find Rankin who rolled his defender before sending his shot on the turn across the keeper but just wide of the far post.
Despite being 3 goals down Hitchin never stopped running and playing good football and it is easy to see why they top the league as well as the fair play league as not once did they resort to unfair tactics allowing Mr Jaye an easy afternoon.
Next Saturday Ashford entertain second in the league Arlesey Town and if Jamie’s lads perform against them as well as they did against Hitchin we are in for another great match. In the mean time, a visit to Biggleswade Town beckons on Tuesday evening.