Salisbury 3-0 Ashford United - Salisbury are a good side. They were better than us on the day, says Ashford United boss Danny Lye

Saturday 20th February 2016
Salisbury 3 – 0 Ashford United
Location Raymond McEnhill Stadium, Partridge Way, Old Sarum, Salisbury, Wiltshire SP4 6PU
Kickoff 20/02/2016 15:00

The FA Vase Quarter-Final
Saturday 20th February 2016
Stephen McCartney reports from Raymond McEnhill Stadium

ASHFORD UNITED’s player-manager Danny Lye says his players will take good memories from the club’s longest run in The FA Vase.

The Nuts & Bolts arrived in Wiltshire sitting in third-placed in the Southern Counties East Football League table on 44 points from 22 games – 15 points adrift of leaders Hollands & Blair but with four games in hand.

The Kent side began their FA Vase campaign in the Second Round by beating Steyning Town 2-1, before getting past Lordswood (5-1), Newport IOW (2-1) and were held to a 1-1 draw by 2012 winners Dunston UTS at Homelands in the Last Sixteen before scoring a dramatic winner in a 3-2 win in the North East.

Salisbury, who went into this game on a 14 match winning streak and eight points clear at the top of the Sydenhams Wessex League, have now banked £13,600 in prize money after winning eight games.

Steve Claridge’s side have brushed aside Wincanton (8-1) in the First Qualifying Round back in September, before beating Folland Sports (4-1), Calne Town (6-2), AFC St Austell (4-0), Highworth Town (5-1), AFC Dunstable (3-0) and Nuneaton Griff (3-0).

Salisbury were far too good for Ashford United and comfortably sealed a 3-0 win in front of a crowd of 1,791 at a stadium that staged Conference football for Salisbury City for three seasons between 2007-2010.

Kane O’Keefe broke Ashford United’s resilience by flicking his shot into the bottom far corner, before impressive left-winger Taureen Roberts drove home the second on the stroke of half-time.

Ashford United came to terms with their exit as early as 70 seconds into the second half when skipper O’Keefe steered the ball into the bottom left-hand corner to score his 21st goal of the season.

“Salisbury are a good side, they were better than us on the day,” admitted Lye, 35, after his side’s chances of making it to Wembley Stadium died.

“I think chances sort of change games and we had a couple, from Boothy. He’s disappointed in the changing room because he knows he normally scores that one to put us back level. That’s football.

“They’re a good side, they’re well-organised. It’s just they had more better players than us on the day.

“I said to them in the dressing room, we didn’t hammer anyone afterwards. It’s a bonus this game. I said to them you make decisions and you become a good player by making good decisions.

“We missed a couple of chances. We should’ve cleared our lines and then they scored a second. It’s a sucker punch and from that it makes it hard for you to get back into the game.”

Claridge done his homework on Ashford United by making sure they were watched against Beckenham Town (6-1) and the Dunston UTS replay, but Lye admitted on Thursday night that he didn’t send someone to watch Salisbury and ultimately paid the price.

Man-of-the-match Tom Whelan done a job on Ashford United’s midfielder Michael Phillips by keeping him in his pocket throughout - while winger Ryan Palmer showed glimpses on his talent down the left wing for the Kent side.

Taureen Roberts scared the living daylights out of Adam Cuthbert, up until the right-back’s withdrawal from injury after 61 minutes, by that time the game was over as a contest.

“I think we were too deep again, as I said last week and that’s our Achilles heel at the minute,” admitted Lye.

“I think Dunston, I don’t think they were better than our top teams (in the Southern Counties East Football League) but definitely today Salisbury, they had some good players.

“Their four (Whelan) sat in front of the back four, he was a good player.  Obviously the wide man (Taureen Roberts), they were sort of the two people that got the win really.”

Salisbury created their first opening inside the opening six minutes when Palmer gave away a foul on the right-hand side.

Whelan stroked a 35-yard drive towards goal, which was comfortably caught by visiting goalkeeper George Kamurasi.

Lye was guilty of giving the ball away inside Ashford’s half and Salisbury broke on the counter-attack.

31-goal striker Sam Wilson played the ball out wide to Taureen Roberts, who cut inside Adam Cuthbert and stroked his right-footed shot from 15-yards, which forced Kamurasi to dive to his right to parry before pouncing on the loose ball.

Salisbury goalkeeper Charlie Seale watched Palmer’s inswinging free-kick from the left sail over his left shoulder and land on the top of the roof of the net after 21 minutes.

Whelan’s cross from the left-hand side sailed over Josh Woolley’s head and was brought under control by right-winger Dan Demkiv, who knocked the ball down and neither O’Keefe nor Wilson could touch over the line.

“George hurt his ribs early on and I thought ‘oh Christ here we go,’ because I didn’t put a goalie on the bench,” said Lye. 

“Nick Luen has taken a new job, he’s becoming a landscaper on a Saturday, so he can’t commit now.”

Lye has signed keeper Darren Hawkes and added: “Darren was a quick fix. He works with Shaun Welford and obviously he’s got some experience and he wants to get back into football so we had to sign some cover.”

Therefore it was no surprise when Salisbury took the lead with 26:11 on the clock.

Ashford switched off as Salisbury left-back Eddie Perrett threw the ball to Whelan, who was given time and space to drill a low shot across a crowded penalty area.  The ball struck Shaun Welford and fell at O’Keefe’s feet inside the six-yard box, flicking his shot across Kamurasi, the ball nestling into the bottom right-hand corner.

Lye said: “Kane O’Keefe, their skipper, is a great player. He scores a lot of goals from midfield and you could see from the two he got today. He peels off defenders and off the midfielders and got into good positions.”

Ashford’s goal led a charmed life and Salisbury were to be denied by a couple of goal-line clearances.

Whelan’s corner from the left came out to Taureen Roberts, who was lurking outside the box.  His driven shot flashed through a crowd of players, beat Kamurasi, but Woolley was standing beside the post to poke the ball off the line. Wilson’s follow-up shot was cleared off the line by Welford.

But despite being outplayed, Ashford United squandered an excellent chance to equalise in the 35th minute.

A good run down the left by Palmer – who was Ashford’s main threat – saw him reach the corner of the penalty area. He cut the ball onto his right foot and floated a cross towards the near post.

Booth found space just eight-yards from goal and tried to place his header into the corner, only for the ball to sail agonisingly past the left-hand post.

“Well, Boothy’s scored 26 goals already this year and you’d put your house on Boothy sticking that one away,” said Lye.

“He had his head down at half-time and he knows he would normally score that. 

“I just said to him ‘we concede goals and we score goals together’ and nine times out of 10 it goes in. It didn’t. That’s football.”

Taureen Roberts played the ball into Wilson, who played the ball back to Roberts, who shrugged past Luke Cuthbert but his shot took a deflection off Pat Kingwell, forcing Kamurasi to dive to his left to make the save.

Kingwell ran forward and cracked a speculative right-footed drive from 40-yards, which thumped straight down the throat of Salisbury goalkeeper Charlie Searle.

But Ashford United created and missed another gilt-edged chance to possibly change the outcome of the game.

Jon Pilbeam played the ball into Booth’s feet in the final third down the right and Booth put Pilbeam through on goal, but he swept his right-footed shot across Seale and agonisingly past the foot of the far post from 15-yards.

“It was agonisingly across goal, same as Boothy’s header,” said Lye.

“If you take your chances, at half-time it could’ve been two-all or we could’ve even been ahead from the chances created, but that’s football.”

Salisbury still had time to score a second goal, a minute into time added on, which sunk Ashford United.

Luke Cuthbert – who partnered Kingwell at the heart of defence – played a suicide clearance towards his brother Adam at right-back, but Taureen Roberts read the ball and intercepted some 35-yards from goal.

The impressive Roberts sped forward and fed Wilson, who laid the ball back for Roberts to cut inside to drill his right-footed shot from 22-yards past the diving Kamurasi for the ball to nestle into the bottom far corner of the net.

Lye admitted he was partly to blame in the build-up to the winger netting his fifth goal for the club.

“Myself and Luke Cuthbert were to blame for that one,” he said.

“I should’ve had a better first touch. I set it back to Luke and he knows he really should’ve put it down the channel. He’s put it down, it’s gone across field and we’ve got punished for it and when you do that against good teams they kill you off.”

Ashford United were now facing a mountain to climb going into the break.

But Lye said: “We’re still in it at 2-0. We changed the shape, we wanted to put three in there (midfield) to try to get in their four and our players had no chance to stay up because they scored their third straight after the restart.”

Lye made the decision at the break to change his side’s shape by playing three in midfield, taking himself and Booth off and bringing on Mikey Dalton and Chris Saunders.

But the pair didn’t have any chance to make any impact on the game as the game was dead and buried after only 70 seconds.

Taureen Roberts murdered poor Adam Cuthbert once again down the left and floated his cross towards the near post where an unmarked O’Keefe steered his first time shot into the bottom left-hand corner from eight-yards.

Lye said: “I said to the dressing room the next goal is the winner. Next goal puts you in it and to concede so early it was game over from there really. All the boys could do was play for a bit of pride.

“Too many times the number 11 got the ball and he could turn and run at us for 10-15 yards and if you give him that amount of time you’re going to get hurt.”

Salisbury have now scored 149 goals in their 37 games this season and you could see why their Wessex League rivals would crumble against a decent outfit, in a National League standard stadium.

They almost scored their fourth goal in the 53rd minute and once again Taureen Roberts was provider, clipping in a cross but Danny Young’s header was kept out by Kamurasi, diving full-length to his left.

Palmer produced a solo run soon after when he broke free from George Colson and cut along the by-line. His first shot was blocked by Searle at the near post, who was beaten by Palmer’s second bite of the cherry, but the ball was cleared off the line by Callum Hart, Salisbury’s central defender.

Lye said: “I think anyone who comes to watch us knows Ryan Palmer can travel all the way up the pitch with the ball and they were fouling him early on in our half. I’d have the same tactic if they had a player like that.

“If we’re higher up the pitch Ryan Palmer is higher up the pitch and it’s a snowball effect. If you’re deep the players that you want causing problems in the final third, they’re on the halfway line, which is something we’ve got to address.”

Salisbury winger Demkiv then clipped a chip past the right-hand post from 25-yards just before the hour mark before the home side declared.

Lye said: “No great chances from either end from either of us really after they scored the third.  They sat back and were happy to look after their lead, try to do us on the break.  We huffed and puffed and didn’t get in behind them and cause them enough problems.”

Welford’s header fell at Dalton, who played in Pilbeam, who cut inside and dragged his shot past the near post from 15-yards after 66 minutes.

Lye admitted: “That was our day really. We weren’t going to score. We could’ve been out there all night and it weren’t going to go in for us!”

The rest of the game was a non-event, although around 200 travelling supporters gave their side vocal support right until the end.

“They sung their hearts out so we made sure we’d give them a clap at the end,” said Lye.

“Some of our lads haven’t played in front of crowds like that so it’s a good experience for the younger lads.

“I brought myself and Boothy off and that might be the last time we play in front of a decent crowd like that in our cases so it’s good for both young and old.”

Salisbury’s last chance came in the final four minutes. 

Young was released down the left and he cut into the penalty area, where his shot was blocked.  Substitute Claudio Herbert laid the ball off to Whelan, who almost capped an impressive display with a goal, but Woolley was beside the post to clear his lines.

Palmer stung Searle’s fingers with an ambitious attempt from the left-channel at the death but Salisbury were just too good for Lye’s men.

Ashford United have scooped £6,800 from their FA Vase campaign this season and Lye said he’s enjoyed the experience.

“We’re just into management and it’s a good experience but we’ll be back stronger next year,” he said.

“I’ve said to the boys in the dressing room, I don’t want any sad faces, no disappointment. We’ve got a game on Wednesday against Croydon, more important than this one, to get us three points.

“It has been a good journey. I didn’t respect it at the start and as the hype and everything built we started to get into the cup rhythm and I didn’t realise how big it was in Kent or in the country, The Vase.

“The amount of text messages I’ve had from all managers I’ve not even spoke to before, it’s nice. It’s a competition so we want to do well again next year.”

Reflecting on the prize money, Lye added: “That’s good for the club, of course, every little helps.

“The boys take good experience, good memories. The Dunston one, that will be a great memory. That will live with them for a long time and playing here in front of a big crowd is good for them.”

Whether those Ashford fans will be up for a trip to Croydon on Wednesday night is another matter, but Lye is keen for his side to bounce back straight away to keep their title aspirations alive and make this the club’s last FA Vase tie.

“We’ve got bigger things to do than this competition now. We’ve got league games to catch up with the others so Wednesday will be a big game for us now,” said the manager.

“The boys will have a beer now, they’ll be happy and there won’t be any heads down.

“Croydon is a tough game, it’s going to be a battle, especially after this.  You have to make sure you react. I said to the boys now we’ll see if we’re a good side or not because when you lose when you’re not used to losing you have to come back and you have to come back stronger and I think the boys will be fine.”

Salisbury are joined by Hereford in the two-legged Semi-Finals, while Bowers & Pitsea and Kidlington will try again in Oxfordshire after a 3-3 draw after extra time, while Northern League Morpeth Town’s home game against Bristol Manor Farm was postponed.

The FA would certainly be keen for a Salisbury v Hereford Final at Wembley Stadium.

When asked whether Ashford had lost to The FA Vase winners today, Lye replied:  “There’s still a long way to go.  If they get Hereford that will be tight. You get to this stage of the competition everyone’s good. They’re in the Semis now, anyone could win it. 

“They’re a good side, they’re not the best side I’ve ever played against but they’re a good side at this level. They’ve got some good players.”

Salisbury: Charlie Searle, George Colson, Eddie Perrett, Tom Whelan, Steve Walker, Callum Hart, Dan Demkiv (Claudio Herbert 61), Kane O’Keefe, Sam Wilson (Ashley Jarvis 75), Danny Young, Taureen Roberts (Sam Roberts 71).
Subs: Robbie Matthews, Jamie White

Goals: Kane O’Keefe 27, 47, Taureen Roberts 45

Ashford United: George Kamurasi, Adam Cuthbert (George Savage 61), Josh Woolley, Luke Cuthbert, Danny Lye (Chris Saunders 46), Pat Kingwell, Ryan Palmer, Michael Phillips, Shaun Welford, Paul Booth (Mikey Dalton 46), Jon Pilbeam.
Subs: Taser Hassan, Tom Fagg

Booked:  Shaun Welford 40

Attendance: 1,791
Referee: Mr Dean Treleaven (Fareham, Hampshire)
Assistants: Mr Gary Parsons (Lymington, Hampshire) & Mr Paul Lister (Chertsey, Surrey)
Fourth Official: Mr Neil Morrison (Stanwell, Middlesex)

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