Monday 20th December 2004

The Kent Website
Supporting Kentish Football

Ashford's youngsters aim to get better

ASHFORD TOWN under 14 manager Vince Shell has looked back at their first MUSH Kent Youth League campaign and is hoping 2005 can be a good year for the team if they continue with their progress, writes Stephen McCartney.

Shell told the club's website: "As we approach 2005 it seems difficult to believe that the team has only been together since July.

"Our pre-season training began in July with a full squad of 22, 18 of which was selected for our first ever game.

"A prestigious friendly against a Millwall academy team consisting of under 13's, 14s and 15s, the 7-0 reverse didn't do justice to the efforts shown by the boys but it did show the standard that was demanded from the onset.

"Next came out first home game at Sandyacres Lane against AFC Wimbledon and a disappointing 4-2 defeat showed that while we had been working hard, there was still a lot of work to do.

"The team then travelled to Birmingham for a national tournament against teams from Birmingham, Bradford, Staffordshire, Brighton and Sunderland.

"Two wins, two draws and one defeat, against winners Sunderland, secured second spot.

"Most important of all of it showed the team was beginning to gel.

"Our last friendly was a 13-0 win over local side Ashford Cavaliers, which led us to the start of our league campaign."

The squad was now trimmed to 19 and their first ever league game gave Ashford a comfortable 9-0 win over Milton Athletic.  Ricky Harden grabbed a hat-trick and braces from Jacob Arnold-Smith and Jack Ransley alongside single strikes from Alex Shell and Danny Smith.

The game, however, proved to be a false dawn as Ashford lost their next three games.

They went down 5-4 to local rivals Canterbury City in "controversial circumstances" and despite an excellent performance and two goals from Arnold-Smith

A 4-0 defeat to Ramsgate followed in the cup and Shell's side lost 2-1 to Chatham, and he added: "We were desperately unlucky not to have got at least a point from this game.

"It is fair to say that the boys learnt from the Ramsgate game and this was to be the turning point of the season so far.

"We then grabbed hard earned wins against Whitstable Town (2-1) with Sheldon Clottey grabbing the winner and Chris Beasley making his debut, and Dover were beaten 1-0, in which a late Shell pile driver secured the points.

"However, we then lost at local rivals Kennington (3-1), a game in which we dominated spells of the game, our hosts finishing was simply better."

Ashford showed their team spirit as they won their next four games.

Ramsgate were beaten 1-0 thanks to a Billy Beaney strike ensuring the points.

Ashford's 5-2 win was the game of the season so far.  They were 1-0 down at the break and they blitzed their opponents with second half goals from Beaney (2), Arnold-Smith, Beasley and Shearing.

Striker Arnold-Smith was offered a trial period at Gillingham, which meant they lost his services for a minimum of six weeks.

However, stand in strikers Nick Walshaw, Shell and Clottey shared five goals between them to defeat Milton Athletic 6-0 with Luke Sheppard grabbing the other goal.

A hard fought 1-0 win over Canterbury City followed, with Clottey grabbing the decisive goal, meant another earlier defeat had been turned around and the team now sat in second spot in the table.

Next came league leaders Chatham Town and once again it was the Medway side that took the points with a comfortable 5-1 win with Mitchell Punt getting a consolation goal.

The pain of the defeat was short-lived, however, as the double was secured over Whitstable Town, with a 3-2 victory after two excellent Danny Shearing free-kicks and a winner courtesy of Ricky Harden.

The team finish the year having won eight and lost four and they sit in third place behind Herne Bay and with a game in hand.

Shell predicted: "2005 could be a good year if the team can continue the progress that they made in 2004.

"What is certain is the club will eventually benefit if the players keep developing as they have done during 2004."