Monday 05th September 2005

Robbins satisfied with opening day point

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 minutes.

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 Budge scored.

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 their mistakes.

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 start."  


Ashford Town: Tim Russell, Richard Vidler, Dave Bourne, Luke Robinson, Shane Sims, Jason Long, Raj Soochi (Dely Straker), Matt Curnock, Ady Pursglove, Shane Desario (Barry Cunningham), Dave Arthur.  Subs: Billy Rice, Dan Hall, Paul Farmer