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.

I was looking forward to this match, mainly because it promised goals. In the previous four league games at Farm Park, there had been a mammoth twenty three goals. And Hayes boast Lawrie Shennan in their frontline, a striker who scored more than forty goals last season for Hanworth Villa in a deadly partnership with Levi King that upwards of ninety goals.

The prematch meet and greet

However, it was Ashford Town who started much the brighter of the two, with winger Mark Bitmead smashing a shot way over the bar in the first thirty seconds. It was a good move from the visitors, involving Dan Brown and Joe Bennett, with the latter laying on the chance. Bitmead probably could have taken a touch or two to steady himself instead of taking it on first time. Brown himself had a chance a minute later, but his shot had the sting taken out of it by a good defensive block. Bitmead then had another chance on six minutes, toe poking narrowly wide from the edge of the box.

Most of Ashford’s attacks were coming down the left wing, where Bitmead was involved pretty much every minute of the opening quarter. He had a cross-cum-shot deflected wide, then found Joe Bennett who curled an effort just wide with the outside of his right foot. Bitmead and Brown both had further efforts, the former hitting a free kick straight at home goalkeeper Ben Goode, while Brown fired over from twenty yards.

If there was ever a definition of a goal against the run of play, then this was it. After twenty three minutes, a corner drifted beyond the far post to Lawrie Shennan, who dinked it back in for Tony Mendy to score with a diving header. This seemed to bring the home side to life, and they started to look more and more dangerous as the half wore on. Shennan was a constant thorn in Ashford’s side, and he laid off a good ball to Mitchal Gough, who hit a ferocious effort. Thankfully for the visitors, it was hit close to goalkeeper Paul McCarthy and he managed to save well, deflecting the ball out of the danger area.

Ashford were still playing their good football, and almost got a deserved leveller, inevitably through Bitmead. His excellent hooked left foot volley was heading for Goode’s top corner, but took a deflection on the way which took it over the bar. That proved to be Ashford’s last chance of the half, and at the break trailed by the only goal. Half Time AFC Hayes 1 Ashford Town 0

Town manager Paul Burgess made a change at half time, bringing on Chris Robinson for Bairoh Conteh in defence, a change which saw Robinson play at right back, with Harry Knock moving inside to the heart of the back-line. While Mark Bitmead had been the main threat from Ashford in the first half, the same could be said of Aban Majeed in the second half for Hayes. And it was he who laid on the second goal with a wonderful through ball for Mendy to latch onto. The striker then showed composure to slot the ball past McCarthy and put daylight between the sides. That was eight minutes into the half, and just a couple of minutes later Majeed himself almost scored, picking up a layoff from Shennan before firing goal wards, but he was denied by McCarthy.

Just before the hour, and Ashford had an excellent chance to halve the deficit. mark Bitmead crossed from the left and found Kofi Lockhart-Adams in acres of space. It was a great chance, but the striker glanced his header straight at Goode. This missed opportunity seemed to withdraw Ashford into their shells, and Hayes smelled blood. Mendy was looking for his hattrick, and undoubtedly should have had it with the amount of chances that fell his way. Firstly, he failed to connect with a low cross from James Walters, then he was denied by McCarthy after being put through by Shennan.

Ashford made a couple of changes during this spell of Hayes dominance, with Bitmead and Lockhart-Adams being replaced by Samad Kazi and debutant Hanif Boyle, making his debut after signing on loan from Staines Town. Left back Ed Thomas fired over as the visitors tried to get back into the game, but it was the home fans who were cheering again when the superb Majeed got the goal he deserved. Cutting in from the left, he hit a powerful right foot shot that went through the dive of McCarthy, who will have been disappointed to let it past him. The goal came with just thirteen minutes left, and wrapped up the points for the home side.

The last few minutes of normal time, and the three of stoppage time saw a bit of a crazy slew of chances. Mendy blazed his hattrick chance over the bar in a fashion reminiscent of Bitmead in the first minute, while Ashford skipper Scott Weight fired straight at Goode from distance. Samad Kazi then broke the home side’s resistance, finishing off a good move involving Boyle, Brown and Bennett. Alex Duffy then screwed a left footer well wide, while at the other end Shennan fired into McCarthy’s hands after a cross from Dyett found him in acres of space. At the other end, Joe Bennett shot at Goode, and then shot a ball’s width over the crossbar with the final effort of the match. Full Time AFC Hayes 3 Ashford Town 1.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable match, with plenty of good play and goalscoring chances. The ground is nice, with very friendly staff and an excellent programme which costs just a quid. The burgers and tea are excellent too! If you’re ever in the area, then I highly recommend a visit.

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About James Bartaby

Hey, I'm James and I'm relatively new to non-league football, having only taken in my first match in September 2011. Despite it being a 0-4 defeat for Hampton & Richmond Borough, I became a huge fan of the club and NL in general. So much so that they are now the first club that I mention when talking about which team I support! I just got massively disillusioned with top flight football in this country and the attitudes of the lawmakers and top clubs in general, and I wanted to start taking my son to see decent football. I am now the club's Deputy Press Officer, and loving every minute!

Posted on October 6, 2012, in UTL Archive and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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