Ashford United 1-2 Erith Town - It was a massive day for their club and we've come and spoilt the party, says Erith Town joint-boss Joe Ford

Saturday 19th September 2015
Ashford United 1 – 2 Erith Town
Location Homelands Stadium, Ashford Road, Kingsnorth, Ashford, Kent TN26 1NJ
Kickoff 19/09/2015 15:00

Southern Counties East Football League
Saturday 19th September 2015
Stephen McCartney reports from Homelands Stadium

ERITH TOWN joint-manager Joe Ford says his side spoilt the party on Ashford United’s big occasion following their surprise win at Homelands Stadium.

Ashford United were making their Southern Counties East Football League debut on their new Champions League graded 3G playing surface.

But they put in a poor performance as they crashed to their third league defeat of the season, while the Dockers climbed up to third on 15 points from seven games, a couple of points behind Hollands & Blair and Corinthian.

Following an uninspiring first half, Erith Town, who lost 2-1 at Erith & Belvedere in midweek, took a deserved lead through Ben Mundele’s first goal of the season, before Ashford United grabbed a penalty equaliser when striker Paul Booth converted his sixth goal of the season.

But Erith Town claimed a deserved win when unmarked striker Tom Garrick steered home the winner to score his sixth goal of the season.

“Absolutely delighted to be honest with you, I thought we deserved it,” said Joe Ford, 25, after his side’s first away league win of the season.

“I thought the shift that we put in from the goalkeeper to the centre forwards was absolutely brilliant today. All the subs that were on the bench, then they came on, done a shift as well.

“Absolutely buzzing about it now, a great result!

“It just goes to show what hard work can do and a bit of commitment and it’s massive for the club after last year.  There’s probably a lot of people that had their doubts about the club whether we could take it forward.

“We’ve brought in a whole new squad from last season, lots of youngsters that you’ve seen today stepping up from under 18s football and putting in a shift in a senior team and coming down to beat Ashford, especially on the occasion today as well when they’ve had their new pitch laid and a massive day for their club and we’ve come and spoilt the party, which we asked the lads to do so yes, it’s a massive day for the club and we’re absolutely delighted.”

Ashford United’s player-manager Danny Lye was clearly disappointed with losing the club’s first home game of the season, especially after thrashing Rochester United 7-0 away on their last outing.

He said: “Well from the way we played against Rochester compared with today we were poor today as a team, didn’t really get going to be honest.

“We weren’t winning second balls. We won a few first time balls and the second ball weren’t won all day and you can’t win games when it’s like that so we have to go again Tuesday.”

A crowd of 265 flocked through the turnstiles at Homelands Stadium on a warm sunny day, but Ashford United’s ageing team struggled against a younger and pacy Erith Town outfit.

Both managers were asked about the playing surface as Ashford United follow in the footsteps of Maidstone United, Whyteleafe, Harlow Town, Sutton United, Carshalton Athletic and Worthing ditching grass pitches.

Lye said: “We’ve got to get used to the big pitch.  It’s good. It’s a big pitch and it plays differently when it’s hot. It’s a lot slower to when it’s wet when you can have more of a slick game.

“We trained (on the pitch) Saturday and Tuesday so it’s getting used to it.

“We can use an excuse the boys aren’t used to the pitch as much as you want, but the team performance was just not good enough!”

Ford added: “Some of the boys during the warm-up said it was a little bit different from some of the 3G pitches they’ve played on.  They felt it was a little bit bobbly under foot.

“But whatever surface we would’ve played on today we would’ve beaten them because we’ve put in a great shift and at the end of the day when you work harder than the other side that’s what’s going to happen, you’re going to get a positive result.”

Right-back Luke Coleman progressed down the flank and whipped in a cross into the Ashford penalty area.  The ball bounced over Ashford’s right-back Anthony Browne and former Bolton Wanderers winger Tom Youngs swept his shot past the near post from 12-yards inside the opening five minutes.

Ashford United relied on direct tactics and almost opened the scoring with their first chance.

Left-back Chris Elliott launched a long throw in from the left into the Dockers’ box where unmarked Lye powered his header against the crossbar from 15-yards before Erith Town cleared their lines.

Lye, who partnered former Docker Michael Phillips in the middle of the park, said: “It was one of those days weren’t it? It could’ve gone in. We had enough chances in the first half and second half we created enough to be really ahead before they actually had any chances.”

Ford added: “It was a sloppy start by us if I’m being honest. I don’t think we really got going until the 10th or 15th minute and then I thought from 15 minutes onwards it was more or less than us. 

“I know they had their chances and bits and pieces through a few long balls and bits and pieces but it was a long ball into the box and we didn’t deal with it so we’ll have to be switched on for the next time we play them.”

A big kick from Erith Town keeper Joe Hagan was cleared out to Youngs, who hooked his right-footed volley bouncing past the left-hand post from 25-yards.

Ashford passed the ball around on the deck with Darren Marsden, Phillips and Pat Kingwell, who found Josh Wooley, the left-winger cutting into the penalty area but sending his rasping drive high over the crossbar and stand roof.

Ashford linked up well again with Jamie Collardo, Booth and Phillips and Marsden’s dinked a shot straight into Hagan’s hands, before Erith Town created their best chance of the first half after 25 minutes.

They were awarded a free-kick 30-yards from goal, which Youngs stroked towards the bottom left-hand corner.  Eason danced along his goal-line and got down low to his right to tip the ball around his right-hand post.

Ford said: “Youngs’ scored a last minute free-kick the other night to win us the game at home to Tunbridge Wells – he’s got that in his locker Tom.

“The kid’s been a pro at Bolton Wanderers, he’s magic around a set-piece. He felt it was going in. You could tell by the way he went to run off after that he was unlucky but it was a good save by the goalkeeper getting down low at his right-hand post and flicking it around.”

Lye simply added: “I think it was actually going wide if he’d had left it so he’s cost us a corner there!”

Ashford United went close when Lye broke up a run from Daniel Willis and drilled a long ball into Booth’s path, who held the ball up on the edge of the penalty area and laid the ball inside to Wooley, who hit a first time left-footed drive which screamed across Hagan and past the far post.

Lye added:  “It was a screaming shot, but it was wide enough than you think. It was quite wide, but we didn’t really get going.  I think we counted six passes today we made the whole game and against Rochester we made 20 passes continuous and that’s the big difference.”

Ashford United’s central defender Kingwell ran forward with the ball picking it up from the half-way line before playing a one-two with Marsden and from 20-yards his right-footed chip sailed narrowly past the left-hand post.

Both sides created late chances just before the break.

Young swung in a corner from the left into Ashford’s box and Garrick’s overhead kick was cleared off the line by Elliott.

And at the other end, Marsden fed Booth inside the box, whose turn left Willis on the deck, but the former Folkestone Invicta and Tunbridge Wells striker curled his shot around the far post from ten-yards.

Booth was kept relatively quiet by his standards.

“If it’s on another day, everyone knows Boothy, he sticks it away,” said Lye.

“It’s one of those days. We started well in the first ten minutes and we started well and we pressed well and then we dropped too deep and that allowed them into the game.”

Both managers were asked their thoughts at the break.

Lye said: “Shaun Welford (my player-assistant manager) done the talking at half-time to start with and we just said it was poor. The tempo of the game was slow. We needed more tempo. We forced the ball, we didn’t keep the ball well and we said ‘we need a lot more boys’ and I think we reacted quite well. We started well after the break and then sort of petered out again.”

Ford said: “Just told them to keep going really. I thought we dominated for the 30 minutes or so before half-time. I thought it was all us.  When we started to play our stuff they couldn’t get near us so I said just keep doing the same – but take our chances, a little bit more quality in the final third.

“I felt we opened them up a couple of times in the first half and maybe could’ve gone and scored but we didn’t do that in the first half so at half-time we told them when you get in the areas you have done we’ve got to punish them and second half I felt we done that.”

Erith Town deservedly opened the scoring with the first chance of the second half after 55 minutes.

Central midfielder Richard Morgan strode forward with the ball straight down the middle of the pitch and played a low pass in for Mundele, who controlled the ball before stroking his left-footed shot past the diving Eason to find the bottom left-hand corner from 12-yards.

Ford was full of praise for Morgan, for going on his 30-yard run.

“Morg’s came back to us about four games ago. He’s not been playing. He was with us last season and he left to get is head right and he’s come back this season and he’s picked up where he’s left off really.  He’s a superb player when he’s on it and driving through the middle, no one could get near him.

“It was a great through ball but I’m more impressed with the composure of seventeen-year-old Ben Mundele, who came down here last season off the bench as at sixteen and scored against them as well when we came down here and drew one-all.

“I think the composure for the finish is well beyond his years and he’s put it on to his left foot, which is not his strongest foot and he’s stroked it into the corner so we’re very happy with that.”

Lye admitted: “They deserved to take the lead at the time. We sort of got squeezed up, we’ve got to get tighter and they scored to go one-up.”

Ashford United were flat and failed to impress.

Lye said: “You don’t want to let the fans down on their homecoming really on their new pitch but you’ve just got to be better and play with more tempo. That’s what was going through the minds and everyone knows we weren’t good enough today!”

Ford said: “I’ve got to be honest with you, I don’t think it was a case of Ashford were flat. I just don’t think we let them play as much as what they’re used to.

“We told the lads we gave Erith & Belvedere a lot of respect the other night when we played them. We let them have the ball and they punished us.

“We told them today, especially on that surface, to get around them nice and sharp as soon as they got the ball at their feet and I don’t even think it was a case of they were flat. I just thought we were in their faces for the full 90 minutes and we pressed them really well.”

With the home fans silent, with the only noise coming from Erith Town’s joint-manager Martin Ford, who was barking out instructions to his team, the Dockers almost went 2-0 up in the 69th minute.

Mundele released Ola Rabiu down the right and he cut inside and fed the ball back to Mundele, who clipped the outside of the right-hand post with his right-footed drive from 20-yards as the ball sailed behind for a goal-kick.

Ford added: “Ben’s a threat. He’s young, people don’t know him. If you give him space he takes it. If you don’t give him space he sets in and gets into space so he’s a good young prospect.

“He’s someone we’ve worked hard with over the last few months. He’s got his chance again. He wasn’t doing it at the start of the season and he sat on the bench for the last three or four games, bided his time and he’s taken his chance today.

“We dropped James Pinnock to the bench today, not because he was playing badly or anything like that, but we felt going up front against Ashford we wanted a little bit of pace against their back four and Ben’s put in a real shift in today and he’s put a performance beyond his years in my opinion.”

Erith Town created another chance to kill off Ashford United.  Garrick played the ball into Youngs’ path, but he lacked composure and his right-footed shot sailed high over the bar.

The game was comfortable for Erith Town, but they gifted Ashford United a chance of an equaliser, which was taken.

Elliott played a low pass inside to Phillips, who was just inside the penalty box on the left hand side and he was fouled needlessly by Erith Town skipper Willis and referee Joe Stokes pointed to the spot.

Booth collected the ball and sent Hagan the wrong way (diving to his right) and clinically slotted his right-footed penalty into the back of the net with 73 minutes on the clock.

Lye said: “You trust Boothy to score. I think it’s a penalty. He hasn’t touched him but he’s changed his path of running from the challenge.

“He’ll get double figures easily. He’ll be high 20s I would’ve thought, he always is.”

Ford said: “Good penalty, sent Joe the wrong way for it.

“A bit sloppy by Dan there by his standards, jumped in but again I think it’s eagerness.  I think we were on a bit of a high, playing good stuff and the balls gone in there, it might be at fault from a few people shouting to press and go and get it nice and quickly, instead of staying composed. He’s nicked the ball, it’s a fraction of a second in it and unfortunately he’s jumped in and the guy’s taken a tumble and gone down in the box.”

A poor kick from Hagan ricochet off Ashford United’s target-man Shaun Welford, but the Dockers keeper pounced on the loose ball inside his penalty area.

But Erith Town deservedly claimed the victory with 77 minutes on the clock through a fine move.

Left-winger Youngs swept the ball from left to right with a sublime 50-yard crossfield pass to find Mundele, who laid the ball off to Rabiu, who played the ball back inside to Mundele, whose angled shot from inside the box was parried by Eason.  The ball rolled across the face of goal to the unmarked Garrick, who turned the ball into the bottom left-hand corner.

Ford said he was delighted with the character shown from his young side to win the game only 201 seconds after Ashford’s equaliser.

He said: “Couldn’t be missed, but again, a good passing move if I’m honest with you.

“We’ve done really well. I felt at times today some of our movement and some of our passing was on a different level to Ashford in my opinion.

“Another well worked goal. Tom’s getting some goals (six) as well. Ben’s scored today as well. Pinno’s scored a few (four) goals for us as well so we’ve got a good front line at the moment and they’re scoring goals for fun.

“Great character to come back from the goal after being pegged back at one-all, great character to go up the other end and score in four minutes.”

Lye added: “We had words after the game in the way we got done on the counter attack after putting ourselves back into the game. We got caught on the break and been punished from it.”

Ashford United substitute Ryan Palmer did inject pace into an aging team and he did cause Dockers’ left-back Timmi Osibodu problems but most of his crosses were dealt with by central defenders Willis and Jason Mensah.

Lye felt his side had grabbed an undeserved equaliser with five minutes of the game remaining.

Palmer weaved his magic down the right and delivered a hanging cross towards the far post.  Substitute Welford rose and planted a trademark header towards the roof of the net from eight-yards but Hagan stretched to pluck the ball out of the air from underneath his bar before dropping down and clutching hold of the ball.

Palmer has only just joined the club following a short spell in the Ryman Premier League with VCD Athletic.

Lye said: “It’s his first sort of chance to show himself. He’ll play more minutes on Tuesday because as I said we need more pace and he’ll get a chance on Tuesday to show us what he can do.

“It’s like Boothy’s penalties, Shaun’s headers you normally bet your house on him scoring them. Good save, it wasn’t to be.”

Praising his keeper, Ford added: “Joe goes unnoticed if I’m being completely honest. Like you say, the guy normally scores from there in any other game and Joe plucks it out. I don’t know how he’s done it, great save, but he’s also caught it as well and set us off for another attack.

“When Palms came on the right for them he caused us a few problems but I thought we dealt with the crosses and bits and pieces that were put in the box towards the end.”

Ashford United lost both of their opening games of the season when Paul Chambers was in charge and Lye’s record goes WLWLWL after six games in charge of the club.

Lye said: “It’s win one, lose one, win one, lose one. We need to stick a little run together but it’s good. We’re slowly getting the team together. It will take time. It’s getting used to the pitch as well but once we get the team right, it will start to click.

Lordswood, who gave Croydon their first points of the season today, visit Homelands Stadium on Tuesday night and Lye said: “It will be a tough game. They beat us in my second game in charge. They’ve got pace, they’re a lively team.”

Ashford have slipped down a couple of places into sixth with 12 points from 7 games but Lye refuses to panic despite being five points behind the leaders at this early stage of the season.

“There’s a lot of people beating each other and we’ll be up there,” said Lye.

“We’ll be fighting for it.  We just need to stick a few wins together and we’ll be alright.

“It’s not an excuse. We’ve got to get used to (the pitch), change the way you play slightly on it and we’ll be alright.”

Ashford United: Dan Eason, Anthony Browne, Chris Elliott, Nathan Paul, Danny Lye, Pat Kingwell, Jamie Collardo (Jamie Bosio 53), Michael Phillips, Darren Marsden (Shaun Welford 61), Paul Booth, Josh Wooley (Ryan Palmer 53).
Subs: Adam Cuthbert, Louis Sprozen

Goal: Paul Booth 73 (penalty)

Booked: Danny Lye 82

Erith Town: Joe Hagan, Luke Coleman, Timmi Osibodu, Daniel Willis, Jason Mensah, Richard Morgan, Ola Rabiu (James Pinnock 79), Max Williams, Tom Garrick, Ben Mundele (Merrick Simms 79), Tom Youngs.
Subs: Mason Simms, Luqman Adesina, Anthony Adesite

Goals: Ben Mundele 55, Tom Garrick 77

Attendance: 265
Referee: Mr Joe Stokes (Dover)
Assistants: Mr Mark Cheseman (Teynham) & Mr Tim Amans (Ramsgate)