Ashford were as poor on Saturday against Westfield as they were good the previous week against Hanworth Villa, and whilst Westfield should be congratulated upon their win, they are hardly a better side than Hanworth Villa, so what went wrong?
Well, manager Murray was a little concerned beforehand with two immense away games coming up this week at Hartley Wintney and then Camberley, that his squad may lose focus for this match and so it proved. There are no poor sides in the League this season and if a team lets its standards fall for a specific match, as we did on Saturday, then you can lose to the bottom side whoever they may be, let alone a determined and committed side such as Westfield were on Saturday. Their manager was probably saying the same kind of thing seven days ago when they lost to Sutton Common Rovers.
Neither can injuries be blamed as everyone suffers from them at times although the loss of both regular centre backs in the shape of Russell Canderton and Lewis Taylor did not help. Ashford had adequate cover in Scott Weight and Max Webb who both dropped back from midfield and whilst both gave their all, they were in unfamiliar positions and it also left the midfield lacking a little bite. With full backs Joe Green and Alex Fisher arguably not quite at the top of their game, the defence was not as solid as it has been for much of the season.
It is always a temptation when you lose to blame the officials. Mr. O’Hene, in the middle, was one of those vocal referees who shout to players to be careful as they go into tackles and he also treated us to a verbal run down of the clock, minute by minute as the match reached its conclusion. Do referees not realise how off putting that is? He also seemed to miss a blatant foul on Weight just prior to Westfield’s second goal but controversial decisions even themselves out and we should not blame him. He wasn’t the worst we have seen.
It was simply a sub-standard performance, apart from the opening 15 minutes which saw two excellent finishes by Mark Bitmead and Bailey Mummery which seemed to give Ashford a commanding, although clearly not unassailable, lead. Westfield’s first goal soon afterwards seemed to come out of the blue a little but it changed the match with the home side going from no-hopers to a team that suddenly sensed there might be something in the game for them. The second goal could have been disallowed but, as it was, the effort took a tremendous deflection and gave Tyler Tobin no chance.
In the second half Ashford could not get going again and Westfield’s long ball game worked as they got a third goal more or less on the hour mark, to turn the game on its head. Ashford still had 30 minutes to do something about the situation but Westfield were in no mood to surrender their hard won lead and only rarely were they seriously troubled. One or two excellent stops from their keeper and a gradual deterioration in their passing game, uusually so excellent did not help Ashford’s cause, and as the visitors chased the game, it was Westfield who could have increased their lead.
It’s hardly all doom and gloom though. It is likely, prior to the start of the season, that the Tangerines would happily have settled for 8 wins out of 9, and with Camberley only able to draw, and Horley losing at AFC Hayes, not too much ground was lost although wins for both Hanworth and Epsom have tightened things up.
Ashford now travel to Hartley Wintney on Tuesday when the kick-off time is 7.30 p.m. Like everyone else in the League, we greatly congratulate Hartley upon winning in the FA Cup on Saturday at Merthyr and given their previous form this season, we will be going to the Memorial Playing Fields as underdogs. That will suit Ashford as it takes the pressure off but more on that later in the week.
Before closing, three members of the Ashford family are to be congratulated this week. Firstly Daryl Watson, who has been selling the raffle tickets and team cards at Ashford for the last 15 years at least celebrated his 50th birthday last Friday. He does a vital job for the club week in, week out, and we wish Daryl a very happy birthday and hope he enjoyed the surprise meal planned for him on Saturday.
Secondly, congratulations also go to Chad Beadle, who became a grandfather on Thursday when daughter Jenny was delivered of a baby girl, Isabella, who weighed in at 7lb 13 oz. Congratulations to all concerned and finally, well done to Dan Butler's daughter who has achieved a degree.