|Stephen McCartney reports from
|Ashford Town||2||Marvin Rufus 19
Tom Evans 31
|Horsham||2||Tom Graves 35
Lee Carney 83 (pen)
Ashford let victory slip out of their hands
It was a case of two points dropped for Ashford Town, as they let slip a 2-0 lead, again, and had to settle for a point against an impressive Horsham side, third in the Ryman League Division One table.
The Kent side were 2-0 up inside 31 minutes through goals from Marvin Rufus and Tom Evans but when Horsham's central defender Tom Graves headed home, when left unmarked at the far post inside the penalty area, the Homelands faithful were probably thinking: "Oh no! Here we go again!"
Horsham, who were well supported both vocally and in bodies, took advantage after home defender Tony Ritrovato - solid at the back until his moment of madness in the 75th minute - was sent off for retaliation and Lee Carney - who should be playing at a higher level - smashed home the equaliser from the penalty spot, which was given away by Matt Bower - for bringing down Ryan Rummery, seven minutes from time.
In a game where striker Paul Jones was impressive
for the home side, and deserved his man-of-the-match award, home substitute Leon
Dussard twice squandered chances to win the game late on, but was denied both
times by visiting goalkeeper Gary Elliott.
Ashford took a deserved lead after 19 minutes when Rufus bundled the ball home from two-yards after good play from Evans, whose penetrating run straight down the middle of the pitch, caused problems for the Hornets.
Horsham issued the Kent side warnings when Andy Walker's 19-yard shot went the wrong side of the post and Ashford goalkeeper John Whitehouse saved comfortably from talented midfielder Carney and Ian Payne as shots reigned in from the edge of the penalty box.
Ashford doubled their lead after 31 minutes. Andre Robinson, who deserved his ovation from the home supporters when he was substituted just past the hour mark, centred for Evans, who nipped in front of marker Stuart Hardy to steer the ball past Elliott finding the bottom far corner of the net.
After blonde haired Graves flicked a header into the corner of the net, following a cross from the right, ten minutes before the break, he almost drew his side level five minutes later. His looping header clipped the top of the crossbar, and he held his head in his hands in agony, as the ball dropped over.
Ashford were full value for their 2-1 advantage at the break, but you sensed a side lying in third place against a side near the foot of the table, would come back.
Taylor twice missed good chances for the visitors early in the half but Jones had a great chance to wrap up the much-needed victory for Ashford after 72 minutes.
With only Elliott to beat, his fierce shot crashed off the brave goalkeeper and the ball dropped agonisingly over the bar.
Ashford's chances were further blunted after Ritrovato was shown a straight red card by Maidstone referee Lee Venamore for retaliation and Carney punished the home side from the spot, with his right-foot, with seven minutes left, after Bower felled Rummery on the left hand side of the penalty area.
Substitute Leon Dussard squandered two great chances to win the game for Ashford. Latching onto two through balls in the final six minutes, his first shot was blocked by Elliott at his near post and his second chance was fired agonisingly wide of the foot of the far post, although the goalkeeper might have got a match-saving touch to the shot.
When asked whether he thought his side had dropped two points, Ashford boss Terry Fenwick admitted: "Yes, I think so.
"First and second half we have missed seven one-on-ones with the goalkeeper, and that's not an exaggeration.
"We were tactically better, quicker and our football was slicker than them in the first half.
"We let them back into the game just before half-time with a sloppy goal.
"But I've got to hand it to the boys they were sensational today.
"If they are third in the table, then we're not far away.
"We have got to get three points, of course we have but we can be enlightened with that sort of performance today when we absolutely bossed the game.
"Two massive performances for us, Matty Bower and big Tony Ritrovato - both were colossal."
However, Fenwick was concerned when his side let slip a 2-0 lead once again.
He said: "Maybe tired legs, but that can't be used as an excuse every week. I would like to play a team that gets a penalty given to them like the way we've given them away.
"Now we have got to be tougher ourselves. We had some magnificent performances out there, Andre Robinson and Paul Jones were both outstanding.
"Again, we've got to measure ourselves against a third placed team. We could have come away five or six one winners today and that would have been a fair reflection on the game."
With Ashford supporters regularly commenting on the number of players at the club, Fenwick played down suggestions that he is operating with a 30-man squad.
"That's a secretary in the club getting a bit carried away actually.
"We've actually got eighteen in the first team squad. We had thirty odd trialists, that including the original squad, and we've slipped it through.
"As you saw today, we've got exciting young players that came off the bench and done very well, we've got some good experienced players and we are shaping up and looking at a good team."
The former Spurs star, explained why defender Ritrovato was sent off.
"He got sent off because he's gone in for a 50/50 tackle, which he won fairly. The guy has had a little kick at him and Tony's reacted.
"Tony is a good player, and he's been outstanding in the few games he's played for us, but that's school kid football and we've got to have stronger mentality than that."
Ashford Town: John Whitehouse, Tom Adlington, Paul O'Brien (Jonathan Thorogood 73), Barry Gardner, Tony Ritrovato (sent off 75), Marvin Rufus, Matt Bower (capt), Joby Thorogood (Erron Dussard 63), Paul Jones, Andre Robinson (Leon Dussard 77), Tom Evans. Subs: Ian Ross, Jake Slade
Horsham: Gary Elliott, Stuart Hardy, Ian Payne, Eddie French (capt), James Crofts, Tom Graves (Florian Mateos 68), Lee Carney, John Westcott, Ryan Rummery, Jamie Taylor, Andy Walker. Subs: Tom Warrilow, Luke Burton
Referee: Lee Venamore (Maidstone)
Assistants: Carl Brook & Paul Harris