|On a glorious summers day, Ashford
Town's reserve side kicked off their season away to the Oystermen of
Whitstable Town on Saturday, writes Stephen McCartney.
Ashford manager Mike Robbins had a strong squad available to him even
though Anthony Pace and Steve Humphrey played for the first team in their
1-0 defeat to Newport IOW at the Homelands.
With the first team experimenting with formations, it allowed Robbins to
play a 3-5-2 with the home side starting with a 4-4-2.
Tim Russell, Dave Bourne, Raj Soochi, Shane Sims, Dave Arthur and Shane
Desario all made their starting debuts for the club, although strapping
striker Desario - signed in the summer from Dulwich Hamlet - had possibly
the shortest debut in history, after pulling a hamstring after only two
Old foe Barry Cunningham, however, was called into action immediately and
Ashford settled down the quicker of the two sides.
The opening twenty minutes saw Ashford have about
ten clear chances, but failing to convert any due to the reactions of
Whitstable goalkeeper Mark Hickson.
At this time Russell in the Ashford goal had not touched the ball, as he
watched his team-mates play some superb football, moving the ball on the
floor from defence to attack very quickly.
Aiden Pursglove, re-signed from Dartford, went close as did Long and
former Tunbridge Wells player Sims.
On 21 minutes, Jason Long, following a drive down the left flank, set up
Soochi for the simplest of chances and he duly obliged, having one touch
and beating the goalkeeper to give Ashford the lead.
At this stage Robbins and his opposite number Simon Kay expected a rout
from the Nuts and Bolts. But it was not to be.
Ashford had chance after chance to kill the game through Cunningham and
Arthur, but Hickson kept the ball out almost single handedly.
On thirty five minutes, Whitstable clawed a goal back with former
Tunbridge Wells' player Richard Vidler failing to win a header and Darren
Unbelievably within a minute, the otherwise untested Russell was picking
the ball out of the net again.
This time Luke Robinson was at fault as the ball came through the middle,
Andy Martin captalised on the mistake to put the reds 2-1 up against the
run of play.
Ashford started the second half unchanged and were eager to make up for
Within minutes of the re-start they were 3-1 down. Dave Bourne was
under pressure from the impressive Marcus Elliot and dispossessed the
lanky centre half, crossed to the far post for the unmarked Darren Bridges
to score with Soochi - earlier the hero - failing to pick up his man.
Soochi - carrying a dead leg - was swapped with Delvin Straker and Ashford
tried to get back into the game.
They pushed forward looking for an outlet, and their second goal came on
56 minutes when, following the persistence of Cunningham, the Whitstable
centre half headed the ball though his own net.
Now Ashford had their tails up, and went searching for the
equaliser. On 59 minutes Ashford were awarded a free kick about 25
yards out to the right of the goal.
Jason Long, looking to take the kick quickly was stopped by the referee
and respotted the ball.
The wall was set and everyone, including the goalkeeper, were expecting
the ball to be aimed high into the top left corner, only for Sims to knock
the ball to Long's left, and Long unleashed an unstoppable drive into the
bottom left hand corner.
From this moment on, Ashford regained control, although the home side
still looked as though they had another goal in them.
The Ashford management pair of Robbins and Martin Larkin reverted to a
flat back four for the final thirty minutes. Curnock orchestrated
the midfield and Purseglove led the charge up front.
However, both teams created enough chances to pinch the game and in fairness,
the points being shared was probably the right out come, although at some
point, in this game, both managers would see this as points lost.
Robbins was exceptionally pleased with the battling qualities shown from
his troops and told www.kentishfootball.co.uk
: "To come here, play that football and score three goals was a dream
start. But conceding three was not so good.
"The lads will need to make the correct choice quicker even if that
means putting the ball over the road.
"But overall, a point away to a promoted side is a good place to