Ashford duly returned to winning ways on Saturday with, what in the end, was a fairly straightforward victory over bottom side Cove by three goals to one.
Cove, of course, have a new manager and plenty of their present squad have more than sufficient senior experience. In a nut shell they were not the best side we have faced at Short Lane this season but neither were they the worst and it took three goals of real quality to ensure the points, despite Ashford probably enjoying at least 80% of the possession.
The first essential was patience and Ashford needed it yesterday, faced by an organised defence and a niggling reluctance to turn chances into goals. Indeed, with no goals in the first 20 minutes, despite chances galore, one wondered if this would be another frustrating afternoon but a glorious move on 26 minutes saw the Tangerines take a deserved lead, the final part of which saw a super cross from Alex Fisher to the head of Dan Fleming whose powerful header gave the generally efficient Cove custodian Sam Freeman no chance.
Ashford certainly looked in the mood with the football flowing beautifully sometimes from the Tangerines but a rare aberration from young Fisher saw him give the ball away under no pressure just nine minutes later and with Ashford caught by surprise, the visitors notched a decent enough equaliser through Karle Carder.
There was no further scoring before half-time but a completely out of character incident soured the period leading up to half time when Josh Andrew did so well not to over retaliate when he was spat at in the face by a Cove player. This report will not name the player, although we know who it was, but it is hoped that Cove might take some action as there is certainly nothing worse in football. Sadly the incident spilled over into the tunnel as the teams left the field at half-time but common sense prevailed in the end and there were no further problems in the second half, especially as Cove substituted the offender very quickly after the break. Indeed referee Brown who refereed the match in a benign, generally cheerful, and certainly unrushed manner saw fit not to take a single name throughout the proceedings and after one or two of the card wielding zealots we’ve endured in certain recent matches, it was quite refreshing in a way.
It took Ashford just six minutes after the re-start to re-gain the lead. Once again it was a superb goal. Andrew picked up the ball deep in the right back position and as he is prone to do, went on one of those long mazy, fast paced runs going past one defender after another before slipping the ball inside to Fleming who deftly beat the keeper. It really was top notch stuff.
It was mostly all Ashford after that although the visitors almost conjured a second equaliser when Samad Kazi had to clear from the line but a third goal for the Tangerines was always beckoning with Fleming having more than one opportunity to complete his hatrick, whilst Mark Bitmead and Jack Beadle also both went close.
The third goal and Fleming’s perfect hatrick, his third in Ashford’s last eight games, did eventually come in the 82nd minute when Fisher was once again the provider to ensure a 3-1 win and three more points.
It may be sometime before we face Cove again as they accept they are doomed to relegation but they will surely pick up a few points before the end of the season and should not be under-estimated by anyone. Ashford, therefore can be more than satisfied with a return to form and some exquisite passing at times throughout the match. Dan Fleming rightly took the ATFC “Player of the Match” award but Scott Weight gets an honourable mention for his hard work, as do full backs, Josh Andrew and Alex Fisher, who were both excellent going forward yesterday.
It will be a different match on Tuesday when Ashford head off to play Enfield Town in the Semi-final of the Middlesex Senior Cup, their reward for beating Harrow Borough 3-0 in the quarter final. It was hardly the draw we wanted, given the journey and the quality of our opponents but we will give of our best.
The address of the ground is: The Queen Elizabeth Stadium, 3 Donkey Lane, Enfield, EN1 3PL, telephone 07787 875 650. It is a journey of around 43 miles ground to ground, involving coming off the M25 at Junction 25, going down the A10 (Great Cambridge Road) until you reach Donkey Lane, via Carterhatch Lane. Kick-off is 7.45 p.m.
Some of our players have achieved praiseworthy milestones in recent matches. On the goal scoring front, Mark Bitmead has now become one of a select band to have scored 100 competitive goals for Ashford, whilst Dan Fleming went past the 50 mark on Saturday. In appearances, Jack Beadle has now achieved 100 competitive starts for the club, whilst Max Webb now has a total of 100 appearances along with Scott Weight who made his 200th 1st Team start on Saturday in his two spells with the Club.
The Under-18’s have produced some excellent performances lately without getting their due reward but will travel to meet Hayes & Yeading FC U18 tomorrow evening in a Ryman Youth match, kick-off 7.30 p.m.