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.
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.
The 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.”
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.
As 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
Lockhart-Adams 78 & 90
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.
Posted on December 30, 2012, in UTL Archive and tagged Ashford Town (Middlesex), Evo-Stik League, James Reading, Kofi Lockhart-Adams, Perry Luckins, Pietro Paladino, Scott Weight, Southern League. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.