Ashford came within two minutes of beating 3rd placed Barton Rovers on Saturday, but a goal in the 88th minute from the home side left the match tied at one apiece.
On a heavy and unpredictable surface, meaning that quality football was always going to be at a premium, Ashford nevertheless had a determination about them from the start which possibly surprised their high flying opponents.
Ashford closed down well throughout, with Mark Bitmead and Dan Fleming setting the example from the front. Neither keeper had been seriously troubled in the opening exchanges but the Tangerines went in front on 13 minutes, when Bitmead, receiving from Samad Kazi, advanced down the right and, under pressure, delivered a superb cross, met by Fleming who knocked it into the net in an instant before neither his closest marker nor the keeper could intercept or get a tackle in.
Ashford survived a penalty scare shortly before half-time when referee Hart quite rightly adjudged that Kazi had not handled deliberately, if atall, although Barton may have taken a different view.
The anticipated fight back from the home side did not really materialise after the break and the game remained generally even, with arguably, the visitors still looking the more likely to score. Bitmead was unlucky not to double the lead when a fierce effort was goal bound but one of Barton’s giant defenders managed to head the ball over the bar possibly more through luck than judgement. As the final minutes approached Ashford were generally looking comfortable, and had a huge penalty shout in the dying minutes when Fleming was bundled over quite blatantly it seemed, but Mr. Hart thought otherwise and waved play on. Within seconds, a long clearance was flicked on and for the first time in the match Ashford found themselves caught out as Barton debutant Danny Watson got the final touch, despite Kazi’s best efforts to get it off the line.
Mark Bitmead was voted by Ashford supporters as their “Ashford Man of the Match” but just about anyone would have had a claim and it was a far better performance than the one the previous week when Ashford had just scraped home against Petersfield. In particular, a dominant performance by central defenders Russell Canderton and Romario Jonas, now seemingly back to full match fitness, was notable. The midfield competed for every ball and Ashford now look forward to their next home match against Potters Bar Town on Saturday.
There are no details yet but the Ladies came out on top yesterday in their top of the table clash against Godalming Town Ladies, winning by 2 goals to 1, giving themselves an excellent chance of winning their division for the second season in a row.
The junior results are to hand as follows:
Cass U8s 5-6 Whitton
Bill U7s 1-1 Epsom
Michael U7s 3-0 Kingston
Chris U8s 6-5 Walton & Hersham
Andy U9s 1-3 AFC Walcountians
Matt U9s 3-2 Carshalton
Ryan U9s 0-1 Kew Association
Matt U10s 2-5 Bedfont
Joe U12s 0-3 South Park
Larry U13s 2-3 Corinthian
John U13s 5-3 Kew Park
Paul U13s 4-2 Woking Cougars
Craig U14s 3-1 Stoneleigh
Fin U14s 4-2 Kings Park
Martin U15s 6-1 Mitcham Park
Ben U16s 5-3 Croygas
Conor U16s 0-0 Meadow Sports
We wish Will Boye well as he has decided to return to his previous club, Colliers Wood United, although he is still running the Ladies’ side. Will played 52 times for the Tangerines, five as sub, scoring just the one goal, since joining us last season.
On the other side of the coin, giant Frenchman Dylan Duby has joined us. He played only a cameo role on Saturday coming on in stoppage time, following International Clearance being granted two days earlier, but he looks a real find.
Ashford have been drawn at home to Wingate & Finchley in the quarter-final of the Middlesex Charity Cup, and the game has been fixed for Tuesday 21 March.
Finally, we would like to thank Barton for their excellent hospitality on Saturday which was greatly appreciated.