Sunday 06th March 2005



Spirited Ashford secure three points

A YOUNG Ashford Town reserve side made the journey through the snow to Erith & Belvedere for a Go Travel Kent League first division game on Saturday, writes Stephen McCartney.

This match was always going to be a good spectacle for the Kent League, as both managers - Mike Robbins of Ashford and Wayne Baldacchino of Erith & Belvedere have reputations for putting out enthusiastic footballing sides.  Robbins opting for youth again, with an average starting age of 19.

The Ashford side mirrored the first team showing how much the squad had changed, in that no player who started their first game of the season actually started against the Deres.

Of the players involved that day, White was ill, Willis was unavailable and Long and Cunningham had been rested to the bench, whereas Wood started this encounter.

The game itself started far brighter than the weather. Both Jake Slade in the Ashford goal and Masters at the other end had to work to do during the afternoon, but they were largely untested in the opening exchanges.

Ashford, however, appeared to be trying to play football but every time they lost possession they found themselves with their backs to the wall.  The Deres usually responding with a quick counter attack down the wings or a well placed ball to their big forwards.

Ashford's best chances fell to Andy Wood - playing on the right wing.  On three occasions he elected to shoot when crossing or shooting later were the better options.  Penfold, Robinson and Maxton all went close but to no avail.

Asked what had to be done during the half-time interval, Robins responded: "This is all about team work today, helping your mate before he passes and helping him again after the passes.  The boys need to realise that no matter where the ball is, they ALL have a job to do, and need to concentrate at all times."

As the second half started, the visitors took control of the game, Matt Curnock and Gary Clarke playing football befitting that of a higher stage.  Clarke - the skipper, not only hitting tackle and tackle, but also spraying the ball around.

Chances came to Anthony Pace down the middle, Penfold in the box and somehow the away side did not get a penalty after Clarke was upended inside the Deres box.  Even the home management and fans could not believe they had got away with that decision!

After that in the 57th minute the ball was played out to Jamie Maxton, who drove forward to the corner of the box.  As he hit the shot, Masters in the Deres goal, started to go as if for a cross, and found himself beaten at his near post.  Pace went close after that as did Penfold.

The home side by now threw on a couple of attacking substitutes, and looked dangerous through Peter Afolayan, who showed some silky skills whenever on the ball.  Credit though must be given to both Richard Vidler, playing out of position and Richard Nadjowski who enjoyed his best game to date in an Ashford shirt.

In the dying minutes after a five-man move, Wood had the shot of the match when he hit a perfectly executed bicycle kick from the edge of the box which literally took the paint off the crossbar.  

At the other end, former Lordswood goalkeeper Slade, watched helplessly as the Deres crossed the ball in front of him but with nobody following up Ashford were able to enjoy the journey back down the M20, taking all three points with them.

The win puts them two points behind third place with a game in hand.

"That was a massive three points for us today.  The lads responded exactly as I asked at half-time.  They showed spirit beyond the call of duty today," praised Robbins.

Deres boss Baldacchino added: "Just as we expected, that was a great game of football by two good sides.  We play them again at the end of the month and am looking forward to that game already."

Ashford's next game is at Erith Town at the Erith Sports Stadium, Avenue Road on Monday 14th March (7:30pm)

Ashford Town: Slade, McCann, Vidler, Curnock, Robinson, Nadjowski, Wood, Clarke, Penfold, Maxton, Pace.  Subs: Long, Cunningham, Hann