After an impressive start to life back at Step 4, Ashford failed to rise to the occasion on Bank Holiday Monday, losing to Egham Town by three goals to one.

Enforced changes meant that Kav Keadell made his debut in goal, with Tyler Tobin sidelined due to an injury sustained at work, whilst Romario Jonas was also absent, following a knock on Saturday.  Will Boye, back at the club, partnered Samad Kazi in central defence.

In the opening period Ashford never got going with Egham dominating possession and were it not for some poor finishing could have had more than one goal to their credit, scored in the 13th minute from a move that had to be admired, as a long cross field pass eluded Alex Fisher, leaving plenty of time for a cross and a simple finish by Brendan Matthews

Ashford did gradually haul themselves back into the match but apart from a Max Webb effort cleared off the line, chances were rare until right on the stroke of half-time, a trade mark free kick from Dan Fleming levelled the scores as it curled impressively into the top corner. 

Ashford were fortunate to be on level terms at the break but it was hoped that the goal would be the turning point.  That did not prove to be the case even though the match was more even in the second period.  Egham restored their lead on 73 minutes through Reece York, who had played one match for the Tangerines in the past when on loan from Slough, and they made the match effectively safe 15 minutes later when Matthews netted his second.

Ashford finally shook off their lethargy and did their best to retrieve the situation in the final minutes, and on another day they might have done it, as Fleming hit the woodwork twice in rapid succession with two superb efforts.  The bottom line though was that the home club played better overall and deserved the points.

Generally though, Ashford have acquitted themselves well this season and after dominating the match against Aylesbury on Saturday, this game against the best side they have faced this season, will hopefully be no more than a hiccup.  Ashford’s “man of the match” was Samad Kazi as voted by supporters, never more deserved than on this occasion.

Matters will not get easier though as it is another away match this coming Saturday, this time in the FA Cup against new opponents, Herne Bay from Division One South of the Ryman League.  More on that one later in the week.

In the meantime, following the thrilling match last week against Staines Town, the Under-18’s are at home this evening to Bedfont Sports U18 in the Lucas-Fettes Cup, kick-off 7.45 p.m.

Whilst ours is far from the only pitch looking somewhat stressed at present, club officials met with groundsman Steve Honey last night and the treatment to kill the weeds that have sprung up is waiting and ready to go as soon as we get some significant rain.  Pitch watering is to be stepped up and Steve is confident that the pitch will soon be back to the standard that we were so proud of last season.

A solitary goal from full back Alex Fisher was enough to secure all three points for the Tangerines on Saturday against visitors Aylesbury.

It is fair to say, on this occasion, that the scoreline did not reflect the overall possession as Ashford were almost totally dominant in the first half, spurning chance after chance, although mention must be made of the Aylesbury keeper who pulled off some incredible saves, including a penalty hit by Mark Bitmead, which he somehow kept out despite the effort being low and down by the post.

One wondered if Ashford would come to rue all the missed opportunities in the first half and the match was certainly more even in the second, but Aylesbury rarely looked as if they would make the breakthrough and the only goal arrived on 77 minutes when Bitmead was adjudged to have been fouled some ten yards outside the penalty area.  Fisher stepped up and for once the keeper was beaten as the effort went low into the net.

The final period of the match saw Aylesbury having their best period but the efforts were somewhat frantic and Ashford safely saw the match out to leave them tucked in nicely at this early stage in 4th place.

The second match of the Bank Holiday programme sees Ashford back at neighbours Egham this Bank Holiday  Monday afternoon.  Egham enjoyed a superb season last time round, coming so close to promotion and Ashford will expect a very tough match.  It did not seem though that there were any fresh injuries picked up on Saturday and with the exception of Bayley Mummery on holiday and possibly Russell Canderton, who was nursing a strain, there should be a full squad to pick from.

The club is aware that the surface at Short Lane, whilst perfectly playable, has not reached the heights of last season which saw the pitch receiving a highly commended award in the National FA competition.  We are making efforts to understand why this is the case and we will hopefully be able to provide further information later this week.  Also, the new kit, so kindly sponsored by Hitchcock and King, is now due to arrive in midweek, just in time for the FA Cup match at Herne Bay next Saturday.  Please remember that if you wish to travel on the coach, you need to put your name on the list in the clubhouse, as if it is not financially viable, we will not be able to run one.

Ashford resume their Evostik League campaign on Saturday with a home match against Aylesbury FC.  League tables don’t mean too much still, at this early stage but our opponents will arrive in 13th position, having won one, drawn one and lost two so far.

There have been nine previous matches between our clubs, all in the Southern League including a League Cup tie.  Honours are even with both clubs having won three each, although our last victory was back in September 2011, when we managed a 4-1 scoreline, thanks to goals from Ashley Lodge, Scott Weight, Mark Bitmead and Dan Brown.  The other side of the coin shows a 0-5 deficit at Aylesbury in September 2013 when we played rather badly, as the score suggests.

One player to have played for both clubs is Adam Logie, who never gave anything but his best for the Tamgerines in the 120 matches in which he featured.

On Monday afternoon (kick-off 3.00 p.m.) we make the short trip to Egham Town for a very local derby.  Again it will be good to renew rivalry with our neighbours who looked last season at one point that they were guaranteed for further promotion but just lost out in the play-offs.

The Under-18’s under new manager Mark Oliver got their season going on Wednesday evening with a very creditable draw against Staines Town, with both sides scoring four goals.  Ours came from Lewis Haldane (2), Robbie Joseph (pen) and Isaac Mplana.  It was a strange game in some respects in that after five minutes, with lightning raging overhead, the floodlights went out,, no doubt due to the electrical conditions and it took some time for them to come back on with play resuming at 8.18 p.m.

Ashford roared into a two goal lead, both from Lewis, but Staines pulled one back just before half-time and quickly equalised after the break.  Ashford then had their backs against the wall for long periods and it was no surprise when Staines went ahead.  The Tangerines rallied and after being denied what looked a stone bonker penalty, they were then awarded one for apparent handball.  Robbie made no mistake and when Isaac coolly put us ahead with less than five to go, it looked as if we would win.  As always though, Staines are invariably decent at this level and they pulled one back right at the death, leaving the match deadlocked at four apiece.

 

The draw for the Middlesex Charity Cup has been released today and Ashford will be away to Southall in the 1st Round.  Southall ground share at Hanwell Town so nobody will be too disappointed about a return to Reynolds Field, if the pitch remains in the same condition as when we played there last week.

There is clearly some embargo upon us receiving home draws in any competition at the moment as, were we to beat Southall, we would be away to North Greenford United in the 2nd Round, who are also our opponents in the Senior Cup where we have a rare home draw.

Ashford negitiated a tricky FA Cup tie in deepest Gloucestershire on Saturday coming away from South & West Division side Shortwood United with a 2-0 victory.

Finding the ground and successfully navigating the narrow road up to it took a bit of doing but we received a warm and friendly welcome from the Gloucestershire side who only three seasons ago had reached the 1st Round Proper of the competition.

In awful weather for August, wet and windy, neither side looked over penetrative in the first half.   Shortwood probably had a little more of the match in terms of possession but apart from a couple of goalmouth scrambles at both ends, 0-0 was about right at half-time.

There was an improvement in the play in the second half with Ashford having as much of the game as their hosts but thoughts were very much drifting towards a replay at Short Lane on Tuesday.  In the last ten minutes though the play became more intense and Shortwood were unfortunate to lose their central defender, sent off for a second yellow card.  Whether or not the new initiatives at higher levels have found their way down to this level is hard to say but it is looking more and more as if just about every tackle carries the risk of a yellow card and in that sense this match was reminiscent of the game at Hanwell on Tuesday.  The referee was fit, up with play and controlled the game well but he simply didn’t need to dish out all the cards that were incurred, in a match with only one foul that caught the eye, that being Scott Weight’s on a Shortwood player on the halfway line.  It would have been OK but the ball was some ten yards away and our player was possibly fortunate with that one to escape with only a yellow.  All the others looked harsh.

It looked to the writer that Shortwood, now down to ten, were keen to try to force the issue and probably didn’t over fancy a midweek trip to Ashford.  Ashford though had introduced three vary capable substitutes in the shape of Tommy Brunton, Bailey Mummery and Jack Beadle and finally were able to take control.  It was Beadle who made the breakthrough weaving his way past three defenders before swivelling and firing home with just four minutes of normal time to go.

Shortwood had no option now other than to throw caution to the wind and inevitably left themselves open at the back and in stoppage time, Mark Bitmead doubled the lead with a delightful chip over the home keeper.

The Ashford “Man of the Match” award went to Samad Kazi, in for Russell Canderton in defence.  Samad was a rock at the back and fully deserving of the award.  Well done also to all the Ashford supporters who made it down to Gloucestershire.

Ashford will now go on to visit Herne Bay (Ryman Division One South) in the 1st Qualifying Round on Saturday 3 September, the latter having beaten East Grinstead by a solitary goal yesterday.  There is no match this midweek for the 1st Team, the next game being at home on Saturday to Aylesbury.  There will be much more on both these matches in due course but the first opportunity to look at our new Under-18 side, under the management of Mark Oliver comes on Wednesday, when Staines Town U18 are the first visitors of the season in the Ryman Youth League, kick-off 7.45 p.m.

There is also a match at Short Lane on Tuesday when British Airways, second in the table after three matches in the Middlesex County League, will hope to preserve their unbeaten record when they take on Kensington Dragons, kick-off 7.45 p.m.

Finally we should like to say thank you to Shortwood United who were a lovely club all round and their hospitality was superb.  Our best wishes go to them for a good season.

  

Manager Ben Murray has strengthened his squad with the signing of Callum O’Sullivan, son of coach Terry O’Sullivan.  Callum is a combative midfield player, aged 19, and was released last season by Queens Park Rangers after being at Loftus Road since his school days.  He is working his way back to full fitness and is likely to be a major asset to Murray’s squad.

On Saturday Ashford make the 96 mile trip into Gloucestershire to play Shortwood United in the Preliminary Round of the FA Cup, with the winners drawn away to East Grinstead or Herne Bay.  Shortwood are fellow members of the Evostick League South but play in the South and Western Division of the competition in which, to date, they have won two and lost two and sit in 13th position in the fledgling table.  On Tuesday evening, whilst we were drawing at Hanwell Town, they lost 0-3 at home to pre-season favourites Hereford.

There will not be any extra time tomorrow and if the scores are level after 90 minutes, there will be a reply at Short Lane on Tuesday evening.

The address of the ground is Meadow Bank, Stroud GL6 0SJ and Shortwood have the following notice on their web site:  All visitors to the ground should note that the access road from Nailsworth to the ground is extremely narrow in parts and is not really suitable for a full size coach.  This is out of the hands of the club and there is nothing we can do about it apart from issue fair warning that teams and supporters may want to consider mini bus or private cars when coming to Meadowbank.

We have taken due notice and the players will largely be travelling by mini-bus, leaving Short Lane at 11.15 (meet 11.00 a.m.).  There is no supporters’ bus but if anyone has room in their car, and is willing to take others, you may like to email Alan Constable (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) and the information will be circulated.  The most straightforward route would seem to be to use the M4, leaving at Junction 15 on to the A419.

Ashford do not have too bad a history in the FA Cup, making the 4th Qualifying Round twice and actually appearing in the 1st Round draw on the most recent occasion, following our draw at home to Forest Green Rovers, who were so nearly beaten when Gavin Smith’s effort deep in stoppage time beat the keeper and rolled agonisingly inches wide of the post.  The news that we would be travelling to another non-league side, Team Bath, now defunct, in the 1st Round, were we to get through was something of a downer and we were well beaten by FGR in the replay on the Tuesday evening.  FGR went on to play Derby County in a later round.

Shortwood, though, can better our record, having reached the 1st Round Proper in season 2013-2014 when they went down 0-4 at home to Port Vale.  In an earlier round they had drawn at home to Aldershot but won the replay at the home of the Shots.

Ashford played their full part in an entertaining match at Hanwell Town on Tuesday evening scoring a deserved equaliser at the death, to make the final tally two apiece.

The pitch looked superb in the early evening sunshine and both teams set out to play some excellent controlled passing with very little long ball stuff, certainly in the earlier stages.  Ashford started well and Dan Fleming brought out the best in the home keeper early on.  Hanwell were soon very much in the game though although chances at both ends were at a premium despite the easy on the eye football.  It was the home side who eventually struck the first blow some seven minutes before half-time when a cross seemed to be mishandled by the otherwise excellent Tyler Tobin to leave an easy opportunity for Hanwell’s James Simmonds to crash his shot into the roof of the net.

The second half followed a similar pattern with neither side gaining any real ascendancy but the visitors were always in the match and the equaliser arrived on 69 minutes when Bayley Mummery was upended in the penalty area, leaving Mark Bitmead to duly score from the spot.

For Ashford, Max Webb, making his 100th competitive start for the club, was everywhere and if anyone was having slightly more of it as the match went on it was Ashford, although defences were still largely in control.  With eight minutes on the clock though Hanwell struck what looked as if it would be the killer goal and just to add to Ashford’s chagrin it was an o.g. scored by Romario Jonas whose back header from a harmless looking cross looped over Tobin and found its way into the back of the net with the keeper stranded.

This Ashford squad though are made of strong stuff.  No heads went down as they pushed for an equaliser but it looked to be in vain until the second minutes of stoppage time when a sublime through ball from Ashford “Man of the Match” Webb found Bitmead in some space and Ashford’s trusty striker made no mistake as he firmly planted the ball past the home keeper, for his second goal of the game.

With ten goals and seven points from their opening four matches, all against established Evostick League opposition, Ashford have proved they can compete at this enhanced level following last season’s promotion.  There does seem still to be the occasional avoidable lapse at the back which would otherwise have meant even more points on the board but nevertheless the squad is in a strong position to push on from here.

One slightly disappointing note was that, on an evening when there were very few fouls in a sporting enough match, we picked up four soft cautions which has dented our excellent discipline in the previous matches.  We know Mr. Ellis as he was promoted with us from the CCL and nobody would argue that he is a very good and fit referee but we weren’t happy with any of the bookings on Tuesday.  Two were for kicking the ball away in the split second the whistle went and two were fouls, barely worthy of the name, when the player who fouled Mummery for the penalty was not even spoken to – what was the difference?

Anyway, there is a break from league action on Saturday when we look forward to playing at Shortwood United, in Gloucestershire, a completely new club to us, in the FA Cup.  There will be further details on this one very shortly.

In some ways Ashford could conclude that they were unlucky to lose against Chalfont St Peter on Saturday, in that they enjoyed arguably the clearer chances and also that a fairly crucial refereeing decision went against them later on in the match.  On the other hand, some poor defending which led to a strong Chalfont side scoring twice in three minutes early in the second half and effectively clinching the points, meant that it could equally be said that Ashford did not deserve too much from the match.

Indeed the visitors started strongly and on the overall run of play, deserved their opening goal on 18 minutes although again it could have been defended better.  It came from an extraordinary long throw from Chalfont’s Chris Ellis.  If anyone can throw the ball further than him in the country, we’d like to see him but there was no excuse for Ashford as we knew all about it given his exploits for Camberley last season.  In the nicest sense of the phrase, we thought we’d seen the last of him but sadly not.  It lead to Chalfont’s Dean McDonnell tapping into an empty net.

All this happened shortly after Dan Fleming, seemingly presented with an open goal, was unfortunate that the ball bobbled and his effort went over the bar. Ex-Ashford’s Kofi Lockhart-Adams had also missed a good chance for the visitors.

Ashford though started to come into the match strongly and were good value for their equaliser just before half time, with Mark Bitmead having been very unlucky to have hit the post from a free kick and Max Webb having seen a full blooded drive well saved.  The equaliser looked as if were coming and it arrived just before half-time when Bitmead, fed by Fleming in a tight penalty area, re-acted first and prodded the ball home.

The break came at the wrong time for the Tangerines who started the second period poorly and found themselves conceding two more goals in three minutes to give the visitors a two goal cushion, the scorers being Tom Mendy and Lockhart-Adams, whom the Chalfont directors thought was their man of the match.  It was undeserved possibly on the overall run of play but Chalfont showed exactly what Ashford can expect at this level, with mistakes clearly more likely to be punished than at Step 5.

Manager Ben Murray’s wrath was enough to spur anyone on and Ashford could not be faulted by the way they then did their utmost to retrieve the situation.  Both Tommy Brunton and Jack Beadle came on to good effect and the reward came with ten minutes to go when Kam English sent in a fierce effort, aided by a deflection, which reduced the arrears to a single goal.

A vital decision had gone against Ashford when Bitmead seemed to be utterly clattered by the visiting keeper which on another day would have seen the fortunate custodian sent off but the referee saw it differently.  The Tangerines kept up the pressure right to the end, and a visiting defender did eventually find himself dismissed.  At the end though, Chalfont held out and maintained their record of three wins from three.

The supporters “Ashford Man of the Match” award went to Alex Fisher.

Although disappointed to lose, Ashford have now played three well established Southern League sides and have beaten two of them.  With all the drawn matches on Saturday, it looks like being a competitive season and at this early stage it doesn’t look as if anyone is going to run away with it.

The next encounter is tomorrow evening, away to Hanwell Town.  Given that we are both Middlesex clubs with less than 16 miles between us, it is surprising that we have never played each other in a league match before.  There have been two cup matches, one in the Charity Cup Final back in May 2000 when a solitary Tony Nolan goal gave us victory and one in the Senior Cup a little more recently in December 2008 when three goals, two from Scott Harris and one from Adam Logie gave us a win by three goals to one.

That will mean little tomorrow, with Hanwell clearly a strong side and still unbeaten with two draws and a victory (3-0 at Kidlington) in their opening three matches.  The address of the ground is Reynolds Field, Perivale Lane, Greenford UB6 8TL and whilst in mileage terms it is not too far away, it would be best to leave plenty of time.  There is a large car park

For anyone interested, there is an Under-18 friendly this evening (Monday) at Short Lane when our new side under manager Mark Oliver, will play their equivalents from Chalfont St. Peter, kick-off 7.45 p.m., before starting their Ryman Youth League campaign.

On Saturday the senior side travel to Shortwood United, in Gloucester, fellow members of the Evostick League but in the South & West Division in the Preliminary Round of the FA Cup.  More on that one later in the week.

Following the milestones achieved by Russell Canderon, Mark Bitmead and Tyler Tobin recently, there will be another one against Hanwell tomorrow when, if selected, Max Webb will make his 100th 1st Team competitive start for the club.

 

Chalfont St. Peter are the visitors to Short Lane this afternoon and with both sides having won their opening two matches, a close game would ensue one would think.

Chalfont won their opening home game last Saturday against Petersfield by 4 goals to nil, and the latter then went on to beat Farnborough on Tuesday, although we understand that Farnborough played the night before in a prestige friendly against Crystal Palace.  Following that, on Tuesday, Chalfornt beat Aylesbury by 3 goals to 1, although all four goals came in the closing minutes, two late penalties sealing the points for our visitors after Aylesbury had equalised.

Chalfont’s second penalty was scored by ex-Ashford favourite Kofi Lockhart-Adams and we look forward to seeing him again today along, possibly with Jack Mullan who also played a lot of matches for us.

On Tuesday, with the matches coming thick and fast, we travel to Hanwell Town for the first ever league match between the two sides.  More on that one in due course

Manager Ben Murray has penned the following article for Ashford supporters to formally introduce th enew players this season.

The club would like to officially welcome Max Herbert, Romario Jonas, Kam English, Kavanagh Keadell, Alex Paxton, and Luke Daley to the club for the forthcoming season.

Max Herbert, a midfielder, joins us after his time at Loughborough University, he’s an ex-Brentford academy player, who came on a month’s loan to Ashford from Brentford a few season’s ago.

Romario Jonas is a bright young defender who joins us from Cambridge United academy, he also spent last season at Maidenhead United.

Kameron English, a pacy winger, joins the club from Harrow Borough, he had a brief loan spell at Hanworth Villa last season and scored against us in the Charity Cup semi-final.

Kavanagh Keadell is a young goalkeeper who signs for us after time at QPR and most recently Exeter City, he will provide much needed competition in the goalkeeper position along with Luke Daley, a goalkeeper who has previously been at Hayes & Yeading United and Chertsey Town.

Alex Paxton is a central defender who joins from Moreton Bay United in Australia, he has recently moved to the country and we are awaiting his International Clearance from the FA to allow him to be in contention for selection.

Another welcome signing that supporters will be happy with is the news that Josh Andrew, who was part of the promotion winning side of last season has joined the squad for the season ahead.

We also welcome back Lewis Taylor and Robbie Sitch to the club, who immediately have dual-registered with Step 5 clubs to enable them to get match fitness, with Lewis at Chertsey Town and Robbie at Spelthorne Sports.

Manager Ben Murray added, “I am extremely happy with the squad we have assembled for the season ahead. They are a hungry group that have a great understanding of each other and the new players that have come into the squad have shown the team mentality we expect and have bought into the philosophy being set.

For such a young age, Romario has had a fantastic start to his time here at Ashford and I look forward to his progress. It’s fantastic news to have Josh signed for the season as well.  It’s also great that Lewis is now back from his long-term injury, he has worked very hard to get back to the point of playing and hopefully his match fitness will progress quickly.

We have had a great start to the season, two good solid victories but we know that we must work hard and take each and every game as it comes.  The commitment of the group is there to see, Russell has hit 600 appearances for the club, along with Mark who has 200 and Tyler, at the age of 21 has already got to 150. The experience is there now.”