Monday 28 August 2017                               Evostick League South, East Division

ASHFORD TOWN (MIDDX)  2    EGHAM TOWN  3                           Att. 137

Bitmead, Fleming                                      Woods, Matthew, Wiseman

Prior to this match and stretching back into last season, Ashford had gone eleven successive competitive matches without losing so it was inevitable that they would lose one at some stage.

The circumstances of the defeat though at home to local rivals Egham Town by the odd goal in five were a little frustrating given that Ashford had taken a two goal lead only to see Egham get it back to two apiece and then score the winning goal in stoppage time.

As the scoring pattern shows, Ashford started well against a fancied Egham side and duly went ahead on ten minutes when a trademark free kick from Mark Bitmead gave a rather shaky Pat Ohman in the Egham goal no chance.  At this point Ashford were rampant and doubled the lead just eight minutes later when Dan Fleming cut in from the left and unleashed a fine effort. 

At that stage, Egham were unable to get a foothold in the match to any extent and Fleming missed a golden opportunity to make it three when his point blank header rebounded off Ohman.  That was not the only missed opportunity to increase the lead even though Egham had started to come more into the match.

They had not really looked as if they would score though but on 38 minutes they did so, rather out of the blue and looking back, that moment changed the game.  It was a very decent effort in the first place that Tyler Tobin in goal did well to get to but unfortunately for Ashford, he was unable to push the ball to safety and Egham’s Matt Woods was on hand to turn in the rebound.

Although there were no further goals before the break, Ashford seemed all on edge after that with hurried clearances, and a lack of cohesion.  Egham became the dominant side and it was not a surprise when they levelled the scores on 58 minutes when a rare error from Tobin led to him not getting the ball away and it found its way to Brendan Matthews who made no mistake.

Ashford steadied and for a while started to play their football again but no-one had their shooting boots on now and frustration once again took hold with far too many free kicks being conceded in dangerous areas.  One such kick in the 92nd minute led to Ashford’s complete downfall as the ball made its way to Mitchell Wiseman to power home as the defending once again wasn’t good enough.

Looking at yesterday’s results, it seems that the league will continue to be extremely competitive, with both Hartley Wintney and AFC Rushden & Diamonds losing their 100% record and Ashford need not be too down hearted over one defeat.  There will be things for manager Ben Murray to ponder though before Ashford entertain Corinthian-Casuals on Saturday in the Emirates FA Cup.  Incidentally, our opponents also lost yesterday at home to Carshalton Athletic in the Bostick League by four goals to two.

The next Ashford match at Short Lane is this coming Wednesday when the Under-18’s will entertain Aldershot Town U18 in the Ryman Youth League, kick-off 7.45 p.m.

Ashford had to come from behind twice in this match but given that they conceded twelve goals in their previous two visits to the ground, eight against Dunstable Town and four against AFC, this was a result that the Tangerines would have been tempted to settle for beforehand, had the choice been there.

AFC Dunstable had been knocked out of the FA Cup the previous Saturday by Step 6 Potton United and were clearly determined to put the matter right and after some early even exchanges, they duly went ahead on 23 minutes.  It was a poor goal to concede from Ashford’s point of view as Romario Jonas seemed to misjudge the flight of the long ball out of defence, leaving AFC’s Louis Bircham with the opportunity to plant the ball past Tyler Tobin.

It was galling for Ashford as they had previously spurned two golden chances, both falling to Mark Bitmead who twice found himself denied by the home keeper, who was on top of his form.  Bitmead though never lets missed chances worry him and he scored a classic equaliser on 41 minutes, lobbing the ball over the keeper from distance.

It was all square at the break and that was about right, with the home side having enjoyed more possession but the visitors had arguably created the better chances.

The second half got underway and referee Gelov was to play a major part.  One or two of his first half decisions had seemed to lack a little consistency but Ashford followers were incensed when Bitmead clearly received a push inside the penalty area.  It wasn’t a hard push but Mr. Gelov decided that the Ashford player had indulged in simulation as he fell over and issued a caution.  Having already denied the visitors a penalty when Jack Beadle appeared to be knocked over, he then upset the home supporters by deciding that AFC’s Christian Tavernier was also guilty of simulation, and as the player had been cautioned in the first half, he was sent off.  From the other end of the field, it seemed harsh and it was perhaps telling that Ashford manager Ben Murray, was seen to be commiserating with Tavernier as he left the field.

Ashford sensed victory but the home side saw it differently and if anything, put more pressure on the Ashford goal which culminated when Max Webb was adjudged to have fouled his opponent in the penalty area in the 76th minute and AFC’s scored from the spot to go ahead again.

There was inevitably a considerable amount of time wasting as Dunstable looked to protect all three points and they seemed to have it in the bag as Ashford, although full of effort were not really showing the passing game that has marked their progress thus far this new season.  With three proven strikers, James Cottee, Dan Fleming and Bitmead all capable of finishing, and all on the field, there was always a chance though and sure enough just as the 90 minutes were up, Bitmead found himself through on goal and he did what he does best, holding off a challenge before expertly slotting the ball past the keeper, to give Ashford a share of the points, which overall was probably the fairest outcome in what had been a decent match overall.

Mark Bitmead was named the "Hitchcock & King Ashford Player of the Match" by the sizeable contingent of Ashford supporters and he now needs just a solitary goal to register his 250th for the club which will be a magnificent achievement.  Whilts looking at stats, belated congratulations go to Scott Weight who is now over his 200th appearance for the club whilst Tommy Brunton needs just three more to register his 200th.

The point enabled Ashford to rise to 4th place in the fledgling league table but the next challenge arrives very quickly on Bank Holiday Monday afternoon, when Egham come a-calling, with kick-off set for 3.00 p.m.  Egham are under new management from last season and will be another tough challenge for the Tangerines as they seek to maintain their unbeaten start to the season.

Ashford face two tough matches over the Bank Holiday weekend, starting with a visit on Saturday to AFC Dunstable.  The address of the ground is:  Creasey Park, Creasey Park Drive, Dunstable, LU6 1BB.  It is a journey of 45 miles each way using the M25 and the M1, although a few miles can be cut off the journey by leaving the M25 at Junction 20 and coming cross country.  Dunstable play in all royal blue.

In the League this season they started with an impressive 4-0 win at home to Fleet Town but then lost by the only goal of the game away to Kempston Rovers.  Last Saturday they went out of the FA Cup, surprisingly losing 0-2 to a Step 6 side, Potton United.

We have played pretty well this season so far, winning all our games and there is plenty of confidence around at the moment but tomorrow will possibly be the toughest test so far, with AFC Dunstable completing a double over us last season.

We managed to come through our banana skin match in the FA Cup against Wembley 3-0 and whilst the final scoreline might have been a little unfair upon our rivals, who played some good football at times, we never looked in real danger and our reward is a home tie against Corinthian-Casuals FC, from the Bostick League (South), to take place next Saturday.

Before that we entertain Egham Town on Monday afternoon in our closest derby, kick-off 3.00 p.m.  More to follow on that one on Sunday.

Our new Under-18 side lost their opening match away to Hampton on Thursday by 4 goals to 1. 

If you’re not travelling to Dunstable, BA now have a home match tomorrow against Indian Gymkhana, kick-off 3.00 p.m.

 

Corinthian-Casuals beat Hythe Town 3-1 in their FA Cup replay yesterday evening, so it is the Tolworth side who will be visiting Short Lane in the 1st Qualifying Round of the FA Cup on Saturday 2 September, kick-off 3.00 p.m. in what will be our first fixture against them since January 2004.

Ashford have been drawn at home to either Hythe Town or Corinthian-Casuals in the 1st Qualifying Round of the FA Cup to be played on Saturday 2 September 2017, kick-off 3.00 p.m.

They drew one apiece on Saturday and are due to replay on Tuesday evening at Hythe.  Both clubs are members of the Bostick (Isthmian) League, South Division and thus play at the same level as ourselves.

Ashford beat Spartan South Midlands club Wembley on Saturday in the Preliminary Round of the Emirates FA Cup by three goals to nil, and now await Monday's draw for the 1st Qualifying Round, to be released around lunchtime..

Wembley had beaten Windsor in the previous round with some ease but they were very much on the back foot at the start of the match, and Ashford, full of confidence, took the lead on 11 minutes.  It rather came into the “scruffy” category as the ball bounced around in the Wembley goal area and the keeper migt have done better but there was no clearance and eventually Scott Weight got the final touch for his first goal of the season.

The visitors were possibly fortunate to still have eleven men on the field as Ashford had shown their intentions as early as the first minute when Dan Fleming broke clear, only to be thwarted by what seemed a fairly obvious pull back, when he was in on goal.  Referee Mays though either didn’t see it or took a different view to most others of a tangerine persuasion and gave nothing.

That early incident may have been the starting point for something of a feisty match, with several stoppages.  The visitors came into the match though and certainly impressed at times, especially down the left flank, but they lacked any killer instinct on the day and although there was no further scoring before the break, Ashford doubled the lead eight minutes into the second half, when Fleming pinched the ball from a poor clearance and set up James Cottee whose impressive angled shot found the net.

Wembley were not done at this point and on another day might have had better reward but the nearest they came was an effort comfortably headed away from the line on one occasion.  Tyler Tobin also had to make a few dashes from goal but Ashford made the match safe on 85 minutes when Cottee, proving an excellent signing, found himself in the clear as Wembley argued too much about a free kick whilst Ashford actually took it.  He carefully steered the ball into the net for his second goal and was virtually a unanimous choice afterwards  for  the “Hitchcock & King Ashford player of the match” voted by supporters.

After a hectic week, Ashford now have a rest until next Saturday when they get another longish trip out of the way with a trip to AFC Dunstable, whilst on Bank Holiday Monday, neighbours Egham Town are the visitors to Short Lane when kick-off will be at the normal 3.00 p.m.  There will be more on these matches later but the Under-18’s get their season underway on Wednesday evening, with a Ryman Youth League match away to Hampton & Richmond Borough, kick-off 7.45 p.m.

British Airways have their first home match of the season this week also, when they play against Lampton Park FC, in the Premier Division of the Middlesex County League on Wednesday,  kick-off 7.45 at Short Lane.

Ashford Ladies have been accepted into the Women’s FA Cup for the first time and have been drawn away to Headington Ladies, from Oxford, on 2 September 2017, in the 1st Qualifying Round.  The winners will be away to either Benson Lionesses or Wargrave Ladies in the 2nd Qualifying Round.

276 clubs – up from 254 last season – have been accepted into this year's competition, including a number of new entrants.

The first round qualifying sees 174 teams from top divisions of county and regional women's leagues go head-to-head to reach the second round qualifying, where they'll be joined by 11 more sides who've been given a bye.

The 47 clubs from the four regional leagues of The FA Women's Premier League Division 1 will enter at the third round qualifying, before the 24 teams in the Northern Division and Southern Division join in the second round proper.

The 20 sides taking part in this season's FA Women's Super League, including holders Manchester City, will enter the competition in the fourth round proper.

 

Ashford’s ground breaking friendly against a side from Tianjin in China went ahead on Thursday evening and it proved to be an exceptionally enjoyable experience.  Although Ben Murray only fielded 3 players from the 1st Team squad, the team he put out was too strong for the visitors who played some intricate football at times but struggled defensively, eventually leading to a win for the Tangerines by 10 goals to 2.

The result though was largely immaterial:  it was the event that mattered and the visitors seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves, especially after the match when both Chinese and English food was laid on for them and they all enjoyed a pint of English beer, with more than one of them coming back for a second.  Great thanks go to sports travel agent Jack Cheng, fluid in both English and Chinese for arranging things in the first place.  There is every chance that he may arrange a similar visit next year, possibly with a view to playing at least two matches against other clubs local to Ashford.

For the record, Ashford’s goals were scored as follows:  Elliott Poley, Jabir Laraba x 4, Max Webb, Nathan Pooley, Joe Brazil, Cameron Richardson, Matt Surmon.  Seven came in the 1st half.  Scorers for Tianjin, for the record were:  Ma Wei, with arguably the best goal on the night as he ran past three defenders before crashing home, and Han Lei, from the penalty spot.

Jabir Laraba emphasised his credentials for a 1st Team spot with four goals, whilst Max Webb only scored one but an absolute thunderbolt.  Yaya El-Kabouche also played after his two match suspension and Will Boye also returned, having just signed for Ashford again.  Rumanian triallist Alex Petrescu also played as did Charlie Cahill, whose International Clearance has now come through.

The second half saw large numbers of Ashford’s Under-18 Ryman squad introduced and all gave a good account of themselves.

It’s back to the serious stuff now and we look forward to the visit of Spartan South Midlands League Club, Wembley on Saturday in the Preliminary Round of the FA Cup, kick-off 3.00 p.m.  The match programmre for the game can be read by clicking here.

Under FA rules we have to charge everyone tomorrow, including season ticket holders.  If the scores are level on 90 minutes, there will not be extra time but a replay at Wembley on Tuesday evening.

Apart from the ongoing holiday absence of Russell Canderton, Ben Murray has no injury worries that the writer is aware of, so the team should be more or less at full strength for what will not be an easy match.  Wembley finished in 4th place in their Step 5 league last season, and beat Windsor in the previous round this season by 4 goals to one.  In the League, they have drawn one and lost one to date, both at home.

The draw for both the Middlesex and Surrey Senior Cups are in and we have been drawn away in both.

After not meeting Wembley since the year 2000 in a cup match, this season we will not only be playing against them in the FA Cup on Saturday, we have been drawn away to them in the 1st Round of the Middlesex Senior Cup.

In the Surrey Senior Cup, it’s another away draw with a game against Ryman League South Park to come.

It’s better luck for the Under-18’s in the Ryman Youth League Cup as we received a bye in the Preliminary Round and will be playing at home in the 1st Round against either Northwood or Camberley Town.

Last night’s match summary failed to mention in error that the Hitchcock and King “Ashford Player of the Match” as voted by supporters, was Jack Beadle, whilst last Saturday the recipient of the accolade was Tyler Tobin.

Next match for the Tangerines is tomorrow evening (Thursday) when we play Tianjin all the way from mainland China in a friendly, kick-off 7.45 p.m.  Entry is entirely free on the night for everyone.  Some of our visitors were at the ground this evening to watch the junior training etc.

 

Although a small amount of the gloss was taken off by two very late Arlesey goals, Ashford made it two wins from two this season as they defeated their Bedfordshire opponents by 3 goals to 2 on Tuesday evening, to make themselves one of five clubs to have won both their opening matches.

As anticipated and certainly hoped for, Ashford were fast out of the blocks after their win at Cambridge on Saturday (they won last night by the way) and it took just two minutes for the Tangerines to take the lead.   It was a simple but impressive goal as Jack Beadle lofted a long ball to Mark Bitmead cutting in from the right.  He advanced at pace and made light of putting the ball past the keeper, who didn’t seem to quite get his angles correct.

To be fair to the visitors, there was no panic as they continued to play but they rarely looked as if they would puncture Ashford’s rearguard at this point and Bitmead almost had a second but a fine save thwarted him.  Ashford kept pressing though and on 31 minutes doubled the lead.  This time it came from a free kick curled in by Alex Fisher.  The keeper could only punch the ball high in the air under pressure and it was James Cottee, rapidly becoming an Ashford favourite, up first to head into the roof of the net.

Just before half-time, Ashford more or less wrapped the game up with their third and possibly the most impressive goal.  A crisp left flank movement saw Bitmead send over a cross for Dan Fleming to meet on the half volley and smash it into the back of the net to give the keeper no chance.

Supporters settled back for the second half anticipating further goals but all credit to the visitors who put a fairly poor first half behind them as they dragged themselves back into the match.  Ashford still looked dangerous on the break as Bitmead showed when he was again thwarted by the visiting keeper.  Manager Ben Murray was reasonably happy with his defence as they coped fairly well as Arlesey had more and more of the ball and as the match entered its final moments, everyone seemed to have settled for a 3-0 victory.

In the 90th minute though, the visitors snatched what could surely only be a consolation, through Taylor Rhiney but when they scored again, this time a thunderbolt from Cade Stephens-Abbey, in the 3rd minute of stoppage time, alarm bells were suddenly ringing as the visitors could sniff a point or even better.

Fortunately for the Tangerines, referee Scott, remembered for his sending off of Mitchal Gough at Cove three years ago for an offence that nobody else had seen,not that we bear a grudge, had signalled just three minutes of stoppage time and blew his whistle bang on time to the relief of Ashford and the chagrin of the Arlesey supporters who thought there should have been more and they were probably right.  The referee’s word is final though and, on this occasion at least, we were happy to accept it.

That said, over the 90 minutes Ashford certainly deserved to win, playing some fluid football at times, and will be in good heart for their match at home to Wembley on Saturday in the FA Cup.  In between time we shall be fielding a side against a visiting Chinese side from Tianjin City in mainland China, kick-off 7.45 p.m. on Thursday. Entry is entirely free for everyone and with bar supremo Kate having been practicing her Chinese it will be worth that by itself to come along.  The Chinese party will also be at the ground this evening (Wednesday) as they have asked to watch one of the junior training sessions in their endeavour to see how clubs at our level organise such things.  Chinese speakers very welcome!

Ashford Ladies turned on the style on Sunday to record a 12-4 victory over Hampstead Ladies at The Robert Parker Stadium.

Ashley Cheatley put in a player of the match performance, scoring six goals. Cheatley recorded a hatrick on either side of half time. Lavana Neufville also scored a hatrick whilst Hannah Pearson, Vicky James and Holly Isaacs also notched in the route.

This result sees Ashford Ladies record their first victory this pre season after defeats to WPL opposition and a draw against Fulham Ladies.  It was a pleasing display by all of the new faces wearing Ashford colours with Charlotte Baker, Paige Smith, Maddie Bone and Sophie Burgess all impressing.  Hannah Pearson and Rebecca Fisher showed moments of brilliance today with both recording assists and Pearson getting her Ashford career off to good start with a goal.

Ashford Ladies are back in action on Wednesday to face WPL side Old Actonians in a 7:45pm kick-off at North Greenford United Football Club.

LINE UP: L Restel, B Sheehan, N Jacobs, C Baker, L Huse, H Pearson, R Fisher, S Phillips-Hines, L Neufville, H Isaacs, A Cheatley

SUBS: V James, M Bone, P Smith, S Burgess, L Richardson