Saturday, July 28th was a good day for me. I regularly watch two non-league clubs; Hampton & Richmond Borough and Ashford Town (Middlesex). On the aforementioned date, these two clubs played each other at Ashford’s Robert Parker Stadium in a preseason friendly.
I had dramas leading up to the game, as my car pretty much gave up the ghost, and I had to ask the wife to borrow hers! With that sorted, I headed off to Ashford’s ground in anticipation of a cracking match in perfect footballing conditions. I was also looking forward to one of their tasty hotdogs! Alas, that didn’t happen as the lady who normally runs the snack bar was away, but I did have a couple of lovely cold rolls and a coffee.
The absence of a team sheet didn’t make things any easier regarding who was turning out to play, but between us we fathomed most of the team! There appeared to be only one unfamiliar face lining up at the start, in the number eleven shirt for Hampton. Both sides had early headers go over, Charlie Moone for Hampton, and Dan Brown’s looping effort for the home side. Brown raced clear of the Beavers’ backline after a dozen minutes, but Craig Ross pulled off a good near post save to deny the striker.
Against the run of play, Hampton took the lead. Karle Carder played a lofted through ball to trialist JJ Bates, and the ex-Harrow Borough forward lifted the ball over the onrushing Ashford goalkeeper to break the deadlock. It was a lovely show of pace and composure from the striker, and only makes me want Hampton to sign him even more! Hopefully, there will be news of that in the coming days.
Ashford continued to be the better side for the remainder of the first half, and could consider themselves unlucky to be behind at the interval. Mark Bitmead almost levelled when his cross nearly deceived Craig Ross, but the ball nestled in the side netting. Hampton manager Mark Harper changed goalkeeper at half time, with Rodney Chiweshe taking Ross’ place between the sticks, and he was called into action immediately. Dan Brown got through and outmuscled Dean Inman, but his shot was easily repelled by the sub keeper.
The remainder of the game passed without too much incident or goalmouth action, and was most memorable for Ashford’s chairman, Dave Baker, chatting to me and Rob (Press Officer at Hampton) for the whole of the second half. A nicer bloke it would be tough to meet.
The game finished 1-0 to Hampton, and was n the whole a very enjoyable experience. It was great to see the two clubs I watch most playing each other, and great to see two clubs playing football the “right way.” There is still plenty of work for Mark Harper and his staff to do before the start of the Isthmian season, but there were some good signs. JJ Bates looked really good, and Karle Carder had an excellent match. And, of course, there was a clean sheet kept.
On top of the team that played today, there are still some important players to come back. James Simmonds, our most creative and impressive midfielder, and Billy Jeffreys, a good centreback, are in the US and due back before the season starts. Joe Ledgister should hopefully sign a new deal and score the goals this season.
All in all, things are looking promising for the coming season, and I cannot wait for it to get underway.