Ryman League Premier Division,
A carnival atmosphere ensued at Ramsgate on Saturday with Ashford and Ramsgate supporters enjoying the sunshine and beer. Ramsgate, already doomed to relegation, have already started making plans for life in Division One South next season and we wish them all the best in that.
Mark Butler made several changes to the side that lost to Dartford in midweek bringing back veteran keeper Paul Burgess for Craig Ross, Brett Cooper, Jon Palmer and Adam Logie were also included with Warren Harris and Gavin Smith named on the bench.
With nothing to play for, in terms of league status, supporters were not really sure what sort of game to expect. Ashford’s players though, were, in effect, playing for a place in the line-up to face Woking FC in the forthcoming Surrey Senior Cup Final and, I am sure, Mark was checking the current form of some of his players.
Ashford were never really troubled in this game and were always in control. They went close to opening the scoring in the 5th minute when a long range daisy-cutter from Palmer hit the post. A free kick, for Scott Harris diving in on Warren Schulz, which Logie put out for a corner, was the closest the ‘Rams’ came to threatening Burgess’ goal early on, but Burgess was obliged to rouse himself to save a rasping shot from Ben Brown, after 18 minutes, after Cooper had given the ball away in midfield.
The visitors took the lead in the 20th minute when a free kick, for a foul on Harris, was swung in from the right by Ricky Wellard, skipper Billy Jeffreys climbed like a ferret up a trouser leg to steer the ball past Jamie Turner in the ‘Rams’ goal with his head.
Soon after, Harris showed his considerable strength as he muscled his way through two challenges only to show too much of the ball to Turner who cleared to touch, then Wellard picked up a loose ball, following a cross from Palmer, to send a shot fizzing past the near post. Wellard tried a speculative effort from fully 45 yards when he spotted Turner off his line after a scuffed clearance but the ball bounced wide for a goal kick to the ‘Rams’.
With ten minutes left of the first half, Michael Peacock headed just wide of Turner’s goal from a Wellard corner, then his central defensive partner Jeffreys, looking for his second of the game, had another headed chance deflected wide for a corner.
Sam Callander tested Burgess with a shot on the turn at the start of the second half before Ramsgate won a free kick on the edge of the Ashford penalty box which Steffan Ball hoisted skywards then, soon after, Danny Walder looked to squeeze the ball inside Burgess’ near post from a short corner but the Ashford keeper was alert to save low at the foot of his post.
Midway through the half Palmer and Cooper combined to find Wellard out wide but his cross was played back to Turner by Will Graham whose clearance started a good move for Ramsgate culminating with Ball breaking through but superb defending by Vinnie O’Sullivan denied the striker the chance to test Burgess.
Ashford scored their second in the 66th minute and one sensed there was no way back for Ramsgate. Logie contested and won the ball in midfield and played in Wellard who found Harris with a first time defence-splitting pass. The Ashford striker drew Turner off his line before sliding the ball into the far corner of the net.
Six minutes later it was three nil. Anthony Joseph (pictured) picked up the ball halfway inside his own half and embarked on a run that took him past three challenges and into the Ramsgate penalty area where he slotted the ball past Turner and into the net at the near post for a superb individual goal.
A flurry of substitutions saw the introduction of Warren Harris, Danny Byron and Byron Harrison to the proceedings with Scott Harris, Anthony Joseph and Wellard going the other way. The younger Harris was soon into the game as he danced past two challenges with only a last ditch tackle by Graham stopping the expected cross.
Fellow substitute Danny Byron picked out Harrison with a good cross, having raced past his marker, but the Ashford striker flicked the ball over Turner’s bar then, in time added, O’Sullivan explored uncharted territory, for him, as he crossed into the Ramsgate half where he picked out fellow full back Ricardo Joseph with a thoughtful pass but Joseph was denied a first goal of the season by Turner.
This win moved the Middlesex side up a couple of places in the Ryman Premier League to a respectable 10th and, with the league fixtures now concluded, Mark can concentrate on preparing his players for the up-coming match against Woking, newly relegated from the Blue Square Conference, on Tuesday 5th May.