At the end of the day it was another clean sheet and three more points in the bag as Ashford beat Petersfield Town by the only goal of the game, scored by Mark Bitmead on the stroke of half-time.
It was not a match to stir the blood and the unexpectedly windy conditions certainly did not help. Petersfield came with a plan to defend and, presumably, hit Ashford on the break and for much of the time it worked although the visitors were rarely able to offer any real threat. Indeed, the Tangerines attacked incessantly throughout the first half and should have been comfortably ahead at the break. Frustration was starting to settle in but with referee Pattinson preparing to blow his whistle for half-time, Bitmead, back on goal scoring form, with four goals in his last four matches, hammered home from close range.
With the strong wind largely behind them in the second half and a goal to the good, Ashford were looking to build upon some useful, if unrewarded, play in the first half but it just wouldn’t go in and visitors Petersfield came more into the match. In truth, apart from one stunning save, they rarely looked like equalising though until near the end when Ashford became a little careless, especially keeper Tobin who dropped the ball at the feet of an attacker who was rather unfortunate to see a foul given against him. That decision actually saved Ashford’s bacon as there would have been little time to come back. That said though, Ashford probably enjoyed more than 75% possession and any other result than three points would have been a travesty.
With Eli Ogunseye gone as quickly as he arrived (he’s now back at Colliers Wood United), there were some rotational changes but the Ashford “man of the match” award went to Romario Jonas, who was solid at the back when he needed to be. As always Samad Kazi took the eye with some pacy runs on the flanks, whilst Bitmead was possibly unlucky right at the death not to increase the lead as he found himself clean through on goal but some split second timing from referee Jim Paterson saw the whistle go for full-time. Mr. Paterson’s explanation afterwards that he thought he would miss anyway was not entirely convincing, but he remains a good referee who uses his experience to the full.
Ashford lost at home to league leaders Royston Town on Tuesday evening by 4 goals to 1.
On the evidence of this display there seems little doubt that Royston will take some shifting from the top of the league, looking far more convincing than when Ashford played at Royston a month or so back. In fact Ashford did not play badly at all, taking an early lead and all the players gave their all. Royston were just too good on the night over 90 minutes as they have been for many clubs this season.
The match though started with a bang for the Tangerines as Bayley Mummery picked up the ball widish right and hit a wicked high dipping volley from distance into the net which left the Royston keeper stranded, on just 58 seconds to be precise.
At that early stage Royston looked ragged and when Dan Fleming hit a tremendous effort quite soon afterwards which rebounded from the bar with force, one started to wonder if it was going to be one of those special Ashford evenings we have experienced so often in the past. Sadly this turned out not be the case as their excellent opponents got themselves into the match and equalised on 13 minutes when a corner kick came in and, under great pressure Max Webb was only able to turn the ball into his own net.
This cranked up the pressure on the Tangerines and the match turned just four minutes later when Royston’s Kaan Fhemi took full advantage of an unfortunate slip by Tyler Tobin, to slide the ball home.
Ashford remained spirited but the visitors were now looking very strong and it was not a great surprise, when they increased their lead on 31 minutes thanks to a fearsome strike from Danny May that no keeper could have stopped.
There was no further scoring before the break and, despite a penalty awarded to Royston for handball which was blazed miles over the bar, Ashford did their best to retrieve the situation. Despite a period of far better possession, they were unable to make a further impression on the visiting defence though and it was definitely game over when Royston scored their fourth on 67 minutes, substitute John Frendo finishing off an impressive move.
The match rather fizzled out after that with Royston knowing the game was won and Ashford having lost the intensity of their earlier play.
The Tangerines now go on to entertain Petersfield Town on Saturday and it is rather odd in that we play the top team one night and then the team at the foot of the table in the next match. Nobody though will be under-estimating our visitors, as although we managed to win at their ground, they made life tough enough for us and they have certainly not generally been losing by large margins. It will be the first ever visit to Short Lane by Petersfield and we shall look forward to welcoming them.
There are one or two milestones to report: Max Webb has now played in over 150 competitive matches for the club, whilst Will Boye has passed the 50 mark after joining us last season. Tommy Brunton has now made in excess of 150 starts for the 1st Team and Scott Weight now needs to play in nine more matches to record his 300th appearance. We currently have nine regular 1st Team players who have started more than 100 competitive matches for the club, which is impressive stuff especially as the majority are still under 25 years of age.
More details are available now about the new "100 Club" starting in March.
It is envisaged that there will be a monthly draw with three prizes each month of £100, £50 and £25. IN addition there will be a separate draw at the start of the season in August for a one-off £500 followed by another special draw at Christmas, when there will be a one-off prize of £1000.