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Sarnies And Tangerines Offer Up A Feast Of Football

A highly entertaining match at The Runnymede Stadium saw a two goal comeback, a late winner, a spectacular goal, and plenty of attacking football as Egham Town FC and Ashford Town (Middlesex) FC faced off in this FA Trophy Preliminary Round tie.

The team sheet...

The team sheet…

...and the novel way it's displayed!

…and the novel way it’s displayed!

This was my first visit to Egham’s ground, but it won’t be my last. From the friendly welcome from Jim on the turnstile, to the innovative way they display the teamsheet, to the action on the pitch, this was a hugely enjoyable experience for watching football.

The two teams play in the same division, Southern League Division One Central, with Egham sixth and their visitors fourteenth. And it was Ashford who had the early chances, with Joe Hughes in particular among the chances. Inside the first thirteen minutes, Hughes had three good efforts, all saved by Egham ‘keeper Tristan Thomas. The best was an effort that Thomas tipped up into the air, and was lucky to see it drop onto the crossbar and over.

Ashford striker Joe Hughes attempts to get a shot away

Ashford striker Joe Hughes attempts to get a shot away

Egham soon got into the game, and on seventeen minutes Kyle Anthony met a Mo Harkin corner with a volley that went narrowly over. Six minutes later, though, and the home side were in front. Ryan O’Toole ran down the right and played an accurate low cross to the waiting Patrick Craig who finished low into the corner, leaving Paul McCarthy wrong footed in the Ashford goal. The lead was almost immediately wiped out, as Kofi Lockhart-Adams launched himself at a cross, only for Thomas to brilliantly deny the striker’s flying header with a point blank save. Joe Hughes’ effort from the rebound went agonisingly wide. Hughes had another effort on the half hour, but it was defelcted wide for a corner, and Jim Mann headed the ball just wide from a cross.

The lively first half continued to produce chances, with Egham pressing for the cushion of a second goal. Patrick Craig and Joe Chandarim combined well, with the former’s shot going wide. Chandarim himself then had a chance, but could only head over from a Joshua Andrews cross. It was then Andrews’ turn to go for goal, going on a great run before hitting a shot that McCarthy did well to save after it took a deflection. On the stroke of half time, though, Egham did get their second. Chandarim was given the freedom of the ground to control the ball and fire left footed into the bottom corner.

I tweeted at half time that I felt there was a comeback in this match, and within ninety seconds of the restart, the deficit was halved. Joe Hughes danced passed a couple of challenges before thumping home a brilliant shot that gave Thomas no chance. It was just the start Ashford needed. The game hit a little bit of a lull after the goal, and it wasn’t until just before the hour mark before we saw another decent chance, when Joe Lynch headed over from a corner. As is often the case, it ended up being a substitution that made a big impact. Ashford brought on Cyril O’Cansey for Perry Luckins, and he scored the leveller within a minute. The ball was laid off to him on the left, and he hit a first time shot that Thomas got hands to. However, the ball spun into the corner of the net, with Thomas and Lockhart-Adams battling to get to it. Lockhart-Adams will doubtless claim the goal, but the consensus of the fans behind the goal was that the goal belonged to O’Cansey.

Into the last ten minutes, and Egham won two freekicks in quick succession. The first was hit by O’Toole, but McCarthy saved it well. Just a minute later, though, and Mo Harkin stepped up and fired a lovely freekick into the corner to restore the home side’s lead. McCarthy will feel he could have done better, as he got hands to the shot but didn’t do enough to prevent the goal. There was still time for Egham to put some gloss on the game, but Chandarim fired wide after dancing through the defence, and then substitute Jacob Lambe’s shot was well saved.

The game finished 3-2 to Egham, and it was probably just about deserved. Ashford did well, especially in coming back from two down, but in the end the higher placed team triumphed, and progress to the First Qualifying Round, where they will entertain Dicot or Cirencester Town, who will go to a replay after they drew 1-1 in their game.

Slough Grind Out Victory

Ashford Town (Middlesex) hosted Slough Town in an uninspiring clash at the Robert Parker Stadium, played in freezing conditions on a surface that could be best described as tricky. Read the rest of this entry

Ashford Hit Four To Beat Woods

On a day that saw the rain claim all but two Southern League Division One Central matches, Ashford Town (Middlesex) moved to within four points of the playoffs with a resounding victory against Northwood.

IMG_3497

Manager Paul Burgess was forced into a number of changes due to the absence of Harry Knock, Russell Canderton and Alex Duffy, but the players that came into the team did the manager, and their teammates, proud. Jim Mann, in for regular skipper Canderton, was immense at the centre of defence, rarely missing a tackle or header, while Perry Luckins was very lively and dangerous on the left wing.

IMG_3498The opening minutes were played out with both sides trying to assert their authority, playing some good stuff without creating much in the way of goalmouth opportunities. The first chance came on nine minutes, when a good Ashford attack saw Pietro Paladino weave his way through the away defence and slot the ball past visiting ‘keeper James Reading. However, the ball held up on the boggy pitch, enabling a defender to get back in time to clear it away before it could cross the line. At the other end, Adamson Ajayi had the best chance for Northwood, as he evaded challenges while running across the edge of the box. He then turned back onto his left foot and dug out a shot which curled narrowly wide of Kyle Merson’s right hand upright.

Ashford continued to carve out the chances, and Paladino had another one cleared from the line on seventeen minutes. Perry Luckins was the creator this time, drilling a cross in from the left to the far post which the diminutive striker got a good contact on to direct it towards goal. Again, though, he was denied by a last gasp clearance. Paladino then missed a gilt-edged chance, miscuing a shot when it looked like a header might have borne fruit. Kofi Lockhart-Adams, Ashford’s main goal threat since the departure of Dan Brown a few weeks ago, had his first sighting of the Northwood goal midway through the first half. The ball was slipped through to him in the box, but he sliced his shot wide in the difficult conditions. Ashford did finally break the deadlock just before the half hour mark, and Northwood should have seen it coming. Another attack down the left from Luckins saw him drill yet another low cross to the far post, and this time Paladino wasn’t to be denied as he slotted the ball home. It really was no more than they deserved in a match that could easily have turned into “one of those days.”

Bairoh Conteh heads over from a corner in the first half

Bairoh Conteh heads over from a corner in the first half

While Luckins was running Northwood ragged on the left, Joe Bennett was working hard on the opposite flank on the less frequent occasions that Ashford chose that side as their point of attack. He was involved in arguably the move of the match four minutes after the goal. From a Northwood corner, the ball was taken out of defence by left back Ed Thomas. He drove to the halfway line before switching play out to Paladino on the right with a lovely pass that evaded the backtracking Woods players. Paladino then slipped the ball inside the fullback to Bennett, whose first touch was a little heavy, allowing Reading to rush out to close him down. As a result, Bennett could only toe poke the ball wide. It was a brilliant, pacy attack, and deserved a goal at the end of it.

There was still time for a couple of chances for the home fans to get excited about; centre back Bairoh Conteh headed over from a corner (pictured), while Scott Weight got on the end of a Paladino free kick, but his shot was deflected wide. From the resulting corner, the ball found it’s way to Lockhart-Adams at the far post, but his header was wide. The halftime whistle went soon after, and Ashford went in with a slender one goal lead, a lead that should have been considerably more. ATMFC 1 Northwood 0

The interval saw the re-emergence of the heavy rain which had subsided enough to allow the game to take place. If it had rained like that prior to kick off, I highly doubt the match would have gone ahead! However, it didn’t dampen Ashford’s determination to secure the points, and the chances kept coming. Six minutes into the half, Luckins weaved into a shooting position, but was denied by a smart save from Reading, and Conteh headed over from the corner. Four minutes later, from another corner, the ball was flicked on at the near post by a Northwood defender, and Paladino headed back across goal towards the opposite corner. Reading threw up his hand, and diverted the ball onto the bar with his fingertips. It was a brilliant reflex save that kept his side in it.

IMG_3513As in the first half, Northwood saw plenty of the ball, and played some nice stuff up until the final third, but couldn’t fashion enough opportunities for a goal. Their only real chance of the second half fell to Tyrrell Miller-Rodney, but he was denied by Merson in a one-on-one fifteen yards out. Perry Luckins, so influential in the opening hour of the match, was replaced with twenty minutes to go by fans’ favourite Mark Bitmead, and he ended up making a massive contribution to the final score. His first involvement was to set up the killer second goal with sixteen minutes left. His corner from the right was met by captain Scott Weight with what can only be described as a headbutt, with the ball thumping into the back of the net and giving Reading no chance. I’m surprised he didn’t pop the ball with his head! A lot of credit must go to Lockhart-Adams in the buildup, as he chased a lost cause, forcing the defender to put the ball behind for the corner in the first place.

Four minutes later, the points were sealed as Lockhart-Adams got his first of a deserved brace. Another Bitmead corner was headed on by a defender, and Kofi nodded home into an unguarded net at the back stick. And he wrapped up the scoring in injury time, slotting the ball home after Reading had saved well from Jack Mullan. All in all, it was a deserved and emphatic victory for a very good looking Ashford side, and on this showing they could well make a playoff push in the new year.

Ashford Town (Middx) 4
Paladino 28
Weight 74
Lockhart-Adams 78 & 90

Northwood 0

Man of the match: It’s always a tough choice to pick out a star performer from such a convincing win. Honourable mentions to Perry Luckins, Kofi Lockhart-Adams, Pietro Paladino and Joe Bennett, who played superbly as a front four. However, a 4-0 win is always built on the nil, and my choice as MOTM is Jim Mann. The centre back was fantastic as he broke up several attacks with key tackles and won virtually every header. A rock upon which the victory was built.

Ashford Stung By Wasps In Eight Goal Thriller

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. Read the rest of this entry

AFC Hayes Fell Ash Trees

This was my first away game with Ashford Town (Middlesex), as I made the short journey to Farm Park, the home of AFC Hayes, for a match between two teams who have made good starts to their league campaigns on a pleasant afternoon in the middle of the Hillingdon Trail. Read the rest of this entry

Tangerines Give Dunstable The Blues

For the second round in succession, Ashford Town (Middlesex) had to negotiate a replay after a 2-2 draw in the first game against South Midlands League opposition. Read the rest of this entry

Tangerines Squeezed By Athletic

Ashford Town (Middlesex)

v

Tring Athletic

Saturday, August 25th 2012

FA Cup Preliminary Round

In unbelievable conditions, these two sides battled out their Preliminary Round match, with the winners picking up a cheque for £1750 from the FA prize fund, and a step further into the greatest cup competition in the world. The rain was incredible, battering the ground incessantly in the build up to the game, so much so that I was fully expecting the match to get called off. But ahead it went, and there was no letup from the heavens for the entire first forty five. In fact, just down the road at Staines Town, the match was abandoned after just eight minutes!

In the treacherous, slippery conditions, it was the side from the Spartan South Midlands League that drew first blood, Connor Waite beating Ashford ‘keeper well from twenty yards. Mark Bitmead had a chance to level three minutes later when a cross from Alex Duffy was cleared to him, but he hit his shot wide from the edge of the box. Ashford then hit the post, before Tring skipper Graham Hall hit a dipping volley from twenty five yards over the bar.

Ashford were struggling to break down the massed ranks of the visitors’ defence, resorting to hopeful long range efforts that never troubled Athletic ‘keeper Mike Underwood. In the last proceedings of the first half, the home side had five successive corners, all of which caused havoc in the Tring defence. In fact, Ed Thomas’ delivery was superb for the whole afternoon. From one of these corners, defender Bairoh Conteh headed powerfully home, only to see his effort wrongly ruled out for a foul. Half Time: Ashford Town 0 Tring Athletic 1

The second half was brighter in more ways than one. The sun came out, at last, and Ashford equalised within 56 seconds of the restart, Mark Bitmead finishing well from the right corner of the penalty area. Sensing the tie was now in their favour, the home side poured forward looking for the vital second goal. Dan Brown just failed to get a touch on Bitmead’s low cross, and then Kofi Lockhart-Adams fired wide. Then, a great move from the home side saw Bitmead almost get in on goal, but he was denied by Underwood, who raced out to smother the ball.

The last fifteen minutes were the best of the match. Paul McCarthy, the Ashford goalie, flapped at a cross, but then redeemed himself with a stunning save from Hall’s piledriver, before Bitmead, Ashford’s standout player on the day, stung the palms of Underwood with a fierce left foot strike. Town substitute Scott Weight headed over from a corner, before the outstanding Tring frontman Reon Thomas lifted a shot just over the top under pressure form McCarthy and his defence. Thomas had worked his socks off in a lone role, and deserved a goal for his efforts. Into the last couple of minutes, and Ashford right back Harry Knock hit a spectacular thirty yard drive with his left foot that Underwood just managed to scramble wide.

The real drama of this match, though, came in stoppage time, and the Tring skipper was heavily involved. From a corner, Graham Hall scored what looked to be the upset-causing winning goal, flicking in at the near post. However, the home side were not finished, and a Bitmead free kick ended up being headed into his own net by the unfortunate Hall. It was the least Ashford deserved to be honest, as they were the better side and had the better goal efforts, but then that’s why we love the FA Cup isn’t it?

I should just take this opportunity to apologise for the tardiness of the report. I was hoping to make the replay, and do a double report. Unfortunately, though, I couldn’t make the game in Hertfordshire, but Ashford prevailed, and won 2-0 thanks to goals from Dan Brown and Kofi Lockhart-Adams.

Ashford Town v Hampton & Richmond

The Robert Parker Stadium

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.

All Square Between Tangerines And Saints

After not seeing a goalless draw all season, I saw my second in four days as Ashford Town (Middlesex) and Chalfont St Peter largely cancelled each other out at the Robert Parker Stadium. Read the rest of this entry

Ashford Keep Their Playoff Hopes Alive

The Tangerines had the ‘Bit’ between their teeth as Mark Bitmead scores a superb winner to complete a league double over Leighton Town.

Read the rest of this entry

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