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.
Ashford Town (Middlesex) v Leighton Town
Robert Parker Stadium, Saturday 28th January 2012
Southern League Division One Central
A twelfth minute strike from the impressive right winger Mark Bitmead won the points for Ashford Town (Middlesex), although The Tangerines should have won by a much more comfortable margin. The result keeps alive Town’s faint hopes of a top five finish and a place in the playoffs.
Town were the dominant side throughout, and their goal had a real touch of quality about it. A good move saw the ball end up with top scorer Dan Brown, and the striker controlled well, before laying the ball into the path of Bitmead who drove his shot past the visiting goalkeeper and warm up the freezing home fans. Although Town were the better side, Leighton did have their own moments. They had a goal disallowed, and hit the post in the first half, but on the whole they were no match for Ashford. The home fans were being treated to some great passing moves, and one of these ended with goalscorer Bitmead hitting a powerful shot which was deflected wide. From the resulting corner, Dan Brown headed over. It was the last chance of the first period, and at half time, Ashford led 1-0.
The second half started a lot more even, with neither side managing to dominate. The home side made a substitution that almost provided immediate dividends. Pietro Palladino was introduced just after an hour in place of the hard working Kofi Lockhart-Adams, and his first touch almost ended in a goal. The ball was clipped over the top of the Leighton defence, and Palladino raced onto it, only to lift his shot over both keeper and crossbar. It was an excellent chance to wrap the game up, and Leighton took a little bit of confidence from the miss. A short spell of pressure from the visitors followed, along with one of a few questionable decisions from the referee. The assistant referee waved his flag for a foul on an Ashford defender, but the referee allowed Leighton to play on, and it could have cost Ashford, as the move ended with a shot on target, albeit a comfortable save for Paul McCarthy in the Ashford goal.
The referee then booked Ashford defender Jack Mullan for a nothing incident, but failed to produce a card when the tricky Palladino was cynically fouled just a few moments later. Palladino had the game’s last chance, getting his head to a cross from fellow sub Perry Luckins, but unfortunately couldn’t direct it on target.
So, the final whistle was blown, and the points were Ashford’s. Yes they should have won by a much clearer margin, but three points are three points, whether you win by one or six. Having said that, goal difference could have an impact at the end of the season, and Ashford’s is currently zero, having scored and conceded forty goals. The Tangerines currently sit in twelfth position on 36 points. The team in fifth, and the last playoff place, are Biggleswade Town. They have 46 points, but their goal difference is +19, which could be a deciding factor when the last games have been played.