Cup holders Ashford Town (Middlesex) and Cove FC shared eight goals in a good match played out on a super pitch despite the freezing conditions.
This was Ashford’s second match in two nights, having played at Wealdstone in the Middlesex Senior Cup the previous night, a match they ended up winning on penalties. As a result, there were only three first team players included in the lineup; goalkeeper Paul McCarthy, defender Perry Luckins, and top scorer Mark Bitmead who played 65 minutes of this contest despite playing the full two hours and scoring a penalty in the shootout at Wealdstone.
There was no teamsheet for the game, but we did ascertain some of the team from their teammates’ shouts and the back of the programme! Cove, one step further down the ladder than their hosts, never looked out of place against a largely reserve Ashford side, and took the lead as early as the third minute when a shot was deflected in leaving McCarthy flat footed. Ashford had a great chance shortly after, when the diminutive number seven got clear but nudged his shot wide of the far post.
The visitors doubled their lead on ten minutes in rather unusual circumstances. Paul McCarthy was deemed to have held on to the ball for too long, and the referee gave a free kick inside the penalty area. This was duly smashed home to give them breathing space. I can’t remember the last time I saw a free kick given inside the area!
Ashford got themselves back into the game twelve minutes before the interval, through a superb Mark Bitmead free kick:
However, just a couple of minutes later, some slack Ashford defending allowed Jake Baxter to restore Cove’s two goal cushion, as he got free in the area and finished well. Tom Mooney almost reduced the arrears, hitting a sweet volley from out wide that the Cove keeper saved well at his near post. Two minutes later, though, and Ashford were back in it when right back Harry Roberts netted with a stunning scissor kick from a Bitmead corner. Half time: Ashford 2 Cove 3
After some much needed half time Bovril, the second half kicked off, and Cove continued to look for that two goal cushion, with Jake Baxter being the main goal threat. He fired over from twelve yards, and then smacked a shot off the post. Their number four also missed a glorious chance, glancing a free header over the bar from no more than six yards out. They were much the better side for the most part, and duly made it 2-4 with around twelve minutes to go. McCarthy let a cross slip out of his hands and the number ten punished him by knocking the ball in, and Jake Baxter wrapped it up six minutes later, racing through and lobbing McCarthy, although the keeper did get a hand to it.
Tom Mooney continued to impress, maybe as he looks to push himself into first team reckoning after the departure of Dan Brown. He cut inside and hit a dipping shot narrowly over, and then scored a stunning individual goal with two minutes remaining. Picking up the ball on the left, he danced his way past three defenders and finished with some confidence to complete the evening’s scoring. Final Score: Ashford 3 Cove 5
The defeat sees the holders crash out of the competition at the first hurdle, while Cove will go on to face Badshot Lea away in the third round.