Ashford United 1-1 Chatham Town - Listen, I've got no complaints, they were by far the better team tonight, admits Ashford United boss Tommy Warrilow

Tuesday 24th August 2021
Ashford United 1 – 1 Chatham Town
Location Homelands Stadium, Ashford Road, Kingsnorth, Ashford, Kent TN26 1NJ
Kickoff 24/08/2021 19:45

(after extra time – Chatham Town win 6-5 on penalties)
The Emirates FA Cup Preliminary Round Replay
Tuesday 24 August 2021
Stephen McCartney reports from Homelands Stadium

ASHFORD UNITED manager Tommy Warrilow says he has no complaints about their FA Cup Preliminary Round exit, admitting Chatham Town were the better team on the night.


The Nuts & Bolts were in fourth-place in the Isthmian League South East Division table after beating Burgess Hill Town 3-1 on the opening day of the season and came away from Chatham with a 1-1 draw on Saturday, despite having centre-half Daniel Hull sent-off five minutes into the second half of the FA Cup tie.

Chatham Town, jointly-managed by Carl Laraman and chairman Kevin Hake both declined a post-match interview, saw their charges beat Eastbourne United 6-2 in the Extra Preliminary Round.

The Chats have won both of their league games and arrived at Homelands sitting in fifth-place in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table, six points adrift of early pace-setters Erith & Belvedere, who have played two more league games.

Ashford United grabbed the lead on the stroke of half-time through Jay May’s trademark header, but Chatham Town deservedly forced extra-time through a Ryan Hayes special, curling a sublime equaliser into the top far corner deep into injury time.

Referee Aaron Conn played 17 minutes and 53 seconds of injury time during this encounter, which was settled by Chatham Town holding their nerve from the penalty spot by 6-5, although it could have been a different outcome if Chatham Town weren’t given a second bite of the cherry with their fifth penalty in the shoot-out.

“I think it summed it up at the end, an absolute disgrace, the penalty decision because he got intimidated by their goalie,” claimed Warrilow.

“I said to (my assistant manager) Alex O’Brien ‘the next one he saves, he’ll pull it up’ and he did.  It should never had got to a sixth penalty.

“Listen, I’ve got no complaints, they were by far the better team tonight. We just weren’t at the races.  I’ve just said to the boys in there, in every department, our passing was poor, our finishing.

“We had a couple of great chances in the first half – if we take them it might’ve been different – but overall I thought we were poor tonight and we’ve got to accept it and take it on the chin.

“Their movement was good. I said before the game they’ve got a lot of experience in their side and tonight we didn’t turn up against a team like that and that’s what happens.”

Most of the first half was cagey and Chatham Town hit their higher-league hosts on a swift counter-attack inside the opening nine minutes.

Ashford’s left-back Mamadou Diallo advanced into the final third and he cut the ball back to Jack Steventon, who took a touch before whipping in a cross before the ball was cleared.

It was two-against-two as Hayes charged down the pitch and cut into the penalty area before cracking a left-footed shot just over the crossbar from 16-yards.

Chatham Town central midfielder Jack Evans had an outstanding game and his first-time pass released Luke Rooney down the right and Evans’ cut inside before drilling a shot towards the near post, which was beaten away by Jordan Carey at his near post.

Ashford United squandered a glorious chance to take the lead in the 16th minute.

Centre-half Ben Gorham is keen to wander into a right-back position before hitting long balls upfield.  The ball sailed over May’s head as well as Butler’s head and Tommie Fagg drove in a cross from the right-hand side and Bailo Camara’s free-header from the penalty spot was planted over the crossbar.

“I’m not going to go through them all. He should’ve buried it! It was a free header,” added Warrilow.

“I think we had the better chances, even though we weren’t the better team. We just got into better areas and we haven’t taken them.

“We’ve said from day one, if we don’t take them we’re going to come unstuck but at the same time they were the better team.”

Laraman and Hake were forced into replacing their two centre-halves Butler (hamstring) and Liam Friend (quad) due to injury and had to re-jig their formation to a back three.  They also lost holding midfielder Jordi Robbins to injury towards the end of extra-time, too.

Right-back Fikayo Ajayi slotted in the centre with substitute Chris Lawal on the left-hand side and Jon Pilbeam slotting in on the right.

Rhyle Ovenden whipped in a cross from the right, which came out to May, who cut the ball onto his right boot and drilled his shot towards goal from 20-yards, forcing Henry Newcome to smother the ball low to his left.

The first half proved to be a tactical battle as both sides cancelled each other out.

Ashford’s two full-backs, Tariq Ossai (right) and Mamadou Diallo (left) and Diallo impressed during the first-half as he kept Hayes in his pocket with an outstanding defensive display.

Ashford United smashed the stalemate by taking the lead with 47:24 on the clock, courtesy of a set-piece.

Ossai swung a corner in from the right towards a crowd of players and May rose to bury his header across the keeper and into the far corner to open his account for the 2021-22 season.

“Yes, we’ve scored from a set-piece, so I’m pleased with that.  That’s about all really. I’m pleased with him for that but if we had taken the earlier header and the other areas we got in, I don’t remember my keeper making much of a save in the first half,” said Warrilow.

“I don’t mind teams dominating possession and things like that because it’s not about that, it’s about finishing chances and their movement was good but listen, we were poor tonight, so I’m not going to start flowering it out.”

Chatham Town were by far the better side during the second half and were gifted an opportunity just 51 seconds in.

Hull was sloppy in possession of the ball as his intended pass outside him to Ossai was intercepted by striker Dan Bradshaw, who was isolated and quiet before the break.

The five-goal striker raced into the box, cut inside and his right-footed drive was smothered by Carey.

“How did he get that? We passed it to him, that’s what I mean, so he wasn’t free, we gave it to him.  We done that in the first half quite a few times, they broke from us, giving it to them. He hasn’t earned that,” added Warrilow.

Evans often found pockets of space in between Ashford’s midfield four and back four and in the 50th minute he received a pass from Robbins before drilling a right-footed shot towards the bottom left-hand corner from 35-yards, which was tipped around the post by the diving Carey.

Right-winger Hayes slipped the ball through to Evans, in another pocket, and he drove forward before cracking a right-footed drive towards the bottom far corner from 22-yards, forcing Carey into making another diving save to thwart his old club.

However, Warrilow’s men rode the eight-minute storm but they couldn’t keep hold of the ball in this high-tempo Kent derby, against a side tipped to battle it out for the title alongside Sheppey United and Glebe.

However, Ashford United were to be denied a second goal on the hour, courtesy of a fine save from Newcombe.

Ossai launched a long ball out from his right-back position down the heart of the pitch and May’s flick-on released Fagg, who burst past Chatham’s Ajayi and was through on goal.  He tried to lift his left-footed shot over Newcombe, who came off his line to narrow the angle and blocked the shot with his leg.

“There’s another area that we got in.  At least Faggie’s getting in those areas,” said Warrilow, who has high hopes for his attacking midfielder.

“Listen, we’re working hard on him. I’ve got big things for Tom. He’s grown up a lot, he knows when we talk to him it’s because we care about him and we want him to do the right things. He looked a threat tonight when he got on the ball.”

Evans, who is playing below his natural level and should be playing two leagues higher, at least, received a lay-off from Luke Rooney and Evans’ right-footed angled drive from 35-yards bounced just in front of Carey, who dropped to his knees to make a comfortable save into his midriff.

There were some unsavoury scenes in the 73rd minute when Carey reacted to an incident in the crowd behind his goal and play was held up as the referee spoke to the goalkeeper and his assistant referee Simon Butler before play resumed without any action taken by the referee.

Warrilow said: “Apparently, they said they (the fans behind the goal) threw a load of drink over him in the back of the goal so that’s what I mean. They’re all saying he punched (someone).  He didn’t do nothing like that. They threw a drink over him apparently.

“He’s come out, a big, massive clearance and he’s chasing it and he’s lost his footing and done his shoulder, I think, so we’ll see how he is. That’s another disappointing thing because we’ve lost him for a while.”

The incident clearly affected Carey as his mistake should have brought an equaliser inside the final nine minutes, with Ashford hanging on to their slender lead.

The outstanding Evans played a first-time ball which split open Hull and Carey rushed off his line and completely missed the ball as he went to ground.

Bradshaw couldn’t believe his luck and he took his time to decide what to do with the ball before putting it on a plate for Hayes, who somehow placed his left-footed past the foot of the far post of an open goal from six-yards.

Substitute goalkeeper Lee Hook, 42, came on for the final four minutes of normal time, with Josh Wisson dropping back to partner Gorham in central defence, with Hull slotting in on the left.

The impressive Fagg drilled his right-footed shot just past the foot of the right-hand post after the Chatham defensive wall did their job inside stoppage time.

It took something special from Hayes to give Chatham Town a deserved equaliser – the goal timed at 48:15 – as the winger turned back the years with another excellent strike from his left-boot.

Good wing play from Pilbeam saw him play the ball inside to Hayes in midfield and he strode forward before cutting in and unleashing a peach of a curler, which nestled into the top far corner, leaving Hook rooted to the spot.

Warrilow added: “Listen, we all know what Ryan Hayes can do, he’s cut in and we’ve gone chasing a little bit and like I said to the boys we had two banks of four on the pitch, so he should be running into our players but we’ve all gone chasing it and we all got sucked in and they're good at popping it behind you and Ryan’s come across and as soon as it hits his foot we could see it would be going in.”

Chatham Town still had one last chance in normal time as Pilbeam drilled in a cross from the right channel and an unmarked Rooney flicked his shot over the crossbar.

“We were grateful to get to extra-time because we didn’t play well tonight and I'm surprised it went to extra-time,” admitted Warrilow.

“Even in extra-time anyone could’ve won it. I think it summed it up to go to penalties but I’m more surprised because I didn’t see that performance coming. We’ve started (the season) well. We’ve done well there against 10 men for 40 minutes on Saturday and got a 1-1 and we had a good start against Burgess Hill here who a lot of people fancy so I didn’t see that coming.

“Like everyone, we’ve got a few people coming back. We’ve got four boys who are not available at the moment, which will strengthen the squad but these boys in there are good enough but our passing and everything wasn’t what it should be.”

Hook excelled during the first-period of extra-time as he was called into action after only 48 seconds, diving to his right and using a strong right-hand to push away Rooney’s well-struck 25-yard right-footed drive.

Bradshaw dropped deep and played the ball inside to Rooney, whose hooked pass from inside the centre-circle put Hayes through on goal but Hook stood up his ground before smothering the shot after Hayes’ pace sent Hull crashing to the ground on the edge of his penalty area.

Halfway through the first-period and Ashford created an opening following a set-piece.

Diallo’s corner from the left was met by Jonathan Richardson who planted his header down and into the grateful midriff of Newcombe.

Ashford substitute striker Luke Leppard was released down the right and he dragged his shot across Newcombe and past the far post at the end of the first period.

The home side created the first chance of the second period when Ovenden released Fagg, whose right-footed angled drive forced Newcome into swiftly getting down low at his near post to push the ball behind for the home side’s seventh and final corner.

The game started to get stretched and both sides had one last chance a piece each.

Ovenden’s hooked pass set up a chance for Ashford substitute Luke Burdon, who from a central position bent a low right-footed drive around the foot of the right-hand post from 30-yards, with Newcombe scrambling across his goal-line.

Hayes got in behind Diallo and put in a cross towards the edge of the six-yard box where Evans slid in and watched the ball trickle across the keeper and just past the foot of the left-upright.

Neither side could find the decisive moment, so the game was settled by a penalty shoot-out.

Chatham Town went up first and Evans capped off an excellent night by finding the bottom left-hand corner with his right-footed penalty, despite Hook diving the same way and getting his hand to the ball.

Ovenden equalised for Ashford United, finding the same corner despite Newcombe guessing the same way.

Both teams then missed their next penalty as Hook dived to his left to smother Bradshaw’s right-footed penalty.

Wisson drilled his right-footed penalty against the underside of the crossbar and bounced the wrong side of the goal-line, as he aimed for the top right-hand corner.

Chatham Town edged into a 2-1 lead when Rooney drilled his right-footed penalty into the top left-hand corner, with the keeper diving low to his right.

Hull sent Newcome the wrong way to rifle his left-footed penalty just left of centre to make it two-a-piece.

Hayes stepped up and drilled his left-footed penalty into the bottom left-hand corner, despite Hook diving the same way.

Fagg, who has scored four goals already this season, made it 3-3 as he placed his right-footed penalty into the bottom left-hand corner, leaving Newcombe rooted to the spot.

Pilbeam’s right-footed penalty was blocked by Hook’s legs, as he moved to his left but the penalty was re-taken and Pilbeam went the same corner, finding the right-hand corner, despite Hook going the same way.

Ashford, however, made it 4-4 when Diallo capped off a decent night by rifling his left-footed penalty into the top-left hand corner, as Newcombe went to ground to his left.

Now into sudden death and Chatham Town made it 5-4 through Lawal, who kept composed to find the bottom left-hand corner with his right-footed penalty, despite Hook getting close to it as he dived the same way.

Ashford captain Gorham led by example and drilled his right-footed penalty into the left-hand corner.

Both sides’ number twos, took the game’s decisive penalties.

Ajayi calmly placed his right-footed penalty into the bottom left-hand corner, sending Hook the wrong way.

Ossai’s right-footed penalty brought a fine save from Newcombe, diving to his left to us a strong arm to send Chatham Town through to the First Qualifying Round.

Warrilow said: “If you want me to be ruthless, we could’ve got away with it and we should’ve won it on penalties!

“We had a massive decision go against us on Saturday with 10 men and it’s gone again tonight.

“I’m not saying we deserved anything out of the game but we could’ve won that and got away with that one because there’s no way it should have been retaken!”

Newly-promoted Corinthian, who have beaten Hythe Town (3-1) and Badshot Lea (4-2) in The FA Cup, play Warrilow’s men at Gay Dawn Farm on Saturday, before East Grinstead Town visit Homelands on Bank Holiday Monday, 30 August.

“We knew it was a tough draw but don’t put it the penalties cost us or whatever. We didn’t deserve to win tonight but we should’ve won the game. It shouldn’t have been a retake. That’s what I’m annoyed about.

“We’ll lose more games than we win if we play like that. I’m just disappointed that again a massive decision has gone against us because of a little bit of intimidation.  It just makes me angry.

“I just need to get home and get them in training on Thursday, have a chat with them all and be sensible because we’ve only had three games and concentrate on the league. That is the most important thing, is to get out of this league.”

Reflecting on Chatham Town’s impressive performance, Hayes, 36, said: “It was a long night, a bit like Saturday’s game, bitty, but I thought we thoroughly deserved to win if I’m honest.

“We were the better team from the second half onwards. We knew we weren’t coming here and fearing them. We knew we were as good as them on Saturday, if not better and we knew we could get a result tonight.  We didn’t come here and think just because they’re a league above we were going to let them dominate.”

Reflecting on his glaring miss and sublime goal, the talented former Dartford winger said: “Yes, I’ve missed a sitter! Everyone’s told me! The only excuse I’ve got is it’s kicked up off the astroturf but it is what it is. I’ve missed a sitter.

“Rolling back the years, I’ve just thought I’d hit it and luckily enough it nestled in the top bin.”

Reflecting on extra-time and the penalty shoot-out, Hayes added: “Come 80 minutes, the manager did say ‘give me 10 minutes, you’ve got 10 minutes to go, come off!’ 

“We know that we’ve got a hard game on Saturday but we’ve got some fit boys in our team. We knew if it went to extra time, we’d be alright.

“I didn’t actually want to take one but I thought you’ve got to as an experienced player, it takes the pressure of the younger lads and luckily enough it went in but Harry is a good goalkeeper, we knew he’d pull us out.

“We were a bit gutted after the game on Saturday. We thought we missed the opportunity but like I said the character in the squad has got us through tonight.”

Chatham Town’s reward is a trip to Combined Counties League Premier Division North side Abbey Rangers in the next round on Saturday 4 September.

The Surrey side raised eyebrows by sending Harry Hudson’s Glebe crashing out of the Extra Preliminary Round with a 3-2 win in Chislehurst.  They have won all three of their league games and are in second-place in the table at this early stage.

“I don’t know too much about them. I know they beat Glebe in the last round so they’re going to be a decent side. Glebe have started well so there’s not going to be an easy game.

“The FA Cup is the biggest Cup competition in the world. I’ve been lucky enough to play in the First Round and the Second Round so we’ll try to go as far as we can and see what happens.”

Before that, however, Chatham Town travel to Sheppey United on Saturday, before returning home to play K Sports two days later.

“We’re looking forward to it. We’ve got some injuries and knocks but we’ll go again and train on Thursday. It’s a big game. We’ve got some big players in the dressing room, hopefully, we can go there and get some kind of result,” said Hayes.

“I think it will be a big game. We’ve played them twice in the Lockdown Cup and they were two big battles but if we can go there and play the way we can, we can get a result.

“We’ve started well, we’ve had a good pre-season and as long as we can keep getting results, hopefully, see where it takes us.  We want to get promoted because we do deserve it. I think last year if it carried on we would’ve kicked right on and won it but we’ve got to get promoted. We’re Chatham, we’re not going to win The FA Cup. Our bread and butter is the league and we’ll concentrate on that.”

Ashford United: Jordan Carey (Lee Hook 86), Tariq Ossai, Mamadou Diallo, Josh Wisson, Ben Gorham, Daniel Hull, Jack Steventon (Jonathan Richardson 73), Rhyle Ovenden, Jay May (Luke Leppard 68), Tommie Fagg, Bailo Camara (Luke Burdon 102).
Subs: Brett Patton, Levi Gold

Goal: Jay May 45

Chatham Town: Henry Newcombe, Fikayo Ajayi, Charlie Dickens, Jordi Robbins (Harvey Brown 120), Reece Butler (Chris Lawal 28), Liam Friend (Matt Bodkin 36), Jon Pilbeam, Jack Evans, Dan Bradshaw, Luke Rooney, Ryan Hayes.
Subs: Harry Maher, Mikey Dalton

Goal: Ryan Hayes 90

Booked: Charlie Dickens 45, Jordi Robbins 90

Attendance: 472
Referee: Mr Aaron Conn
Assistants: Mr Simon Butler & Mr David Rowland