Ashford United 3-0 Guernsey - We'll go for the title until it's mathematically impossible but we're a realist and if you can finish second that's the next best thing to have home advantage in the play-offs, says Ashford United boss Tommy Warrilow

Saturday 30th March 2019
Ashford United 3 – 0 Guernsey
Location Homelands Stadium, Ashford Road, Kingsnorth, Ashford, Kent TN26 1NJ
Kickoff 30/03/2019 13:00

Bostik South East Division
Saturday 30 March 2019
Stephen McCartney reports from Homelands Stadium

ASHFORD UNITED manager Tommy Warrilow has challenged his side to finish in second-place so they can have home advantage in the Bostik South East Division play-offs.

The Nuts & Bolts were wasteful in front of goal and had to settle for three goals against relegation threatened side Guernsey at Homelands Stadium, watched by a crowd of 331.

Target man Jay May scored with a trademark header to send them on their way inside the opening 23 minutes but they had to wait until the second half to wrap up a comfortable win, courtesy of an own-goal and Dan Parish’s nineteenth-goal from as many starts.

Since being given the champions-elect tag after beating Horsham 2-0, Cray Wanderers have slipped up by losing 3-2 at Hastings United, being held to a 2-2 home draw by Haywards Heath and they suffered a 1-0 defeat at Whitstable Town today, which was third league defeat of the season.

Ashford United leapfrogged over three clubs into second-place at the final whistle due to this game kicking off earlier at 1 o’clock, but returned to fourth when all of the results came through later in the afternoon.

Cray Wanderers remain top on 72 points from 31 games; while Hastings United (62 points from 32 games); Horsham (62 points from 32); Ashford United (61 points from 31 games) and Haywards Heath Town (56 points from 31 games) are all fighting it out for that all-important home advantage in the play-off lottery.

Bottom-of-the-table Greenwich Borough boosted their survival bid with a 2-1 home win over Sittingbourne with 27 points from 32 (of 38) games, while Tony Vance’s Guernsey remain second-from-bottom with 28 points from 31 games, three points adrift of Faversham Town.

“No disrespect to Guernsey, I thought we made hard work of it a little bit in the first half,” admitted Warrilow, who has won 13 of his 18 games in charge, keeping 11 clean sheets.

“We was very quiet out there so I said to the boys about using their brain a little bit more, showing them the right way.

“I thought we got in great areas and created a lot of chances today and got three goals.  Guernsey are a difficult side, they’re not a bad side, they keep possession well and you can see how they frustrate teams and you can get caught.

“I felt today, especially in the first half, we weren’t under that much pressure but we needed to get the second and third goal to make it comfortable.

“We got in the right areas with good balls in. It’s something that we’ve got to address but the main thing, at least we’re creating chances.”

With Guernsey playing the ball out from the back, Ashford United were oceans better than their Channel Island opponents.

Ashford United right-back Jerald Aboagye played the ball down the line and Parish dummied the ball past his marker and charged forward before spraying the ball out wide to advanced left-back Jake McIntyre, whose left-footed angled drive was palmed around the near post by the busy Guernsey keeper Callum Stanton.

Warrilow’s men won the corner-count by 7-1 and Sam Corne floated in the resulting corner from the left and McIntyre found a pocket of space at the far post to plant his bullet header just over the crossbar.

Ashford United goalkeeper Sam Mott has now kept four clean sheets in a row – his last goal that he conceded was 439 minutes ago.

The 30-year-old rushed off his line and smothered the ball at Liam Mahon’s feet after the central midfielder attempted to latch onto Carlos Canha’s through ball along the deck.

“We’ve had 11 now since we’ve been here,” said Warrilow.

“It’s very unlike my teams because as you’ve seen today we attack and attack and attack. All the time you don’t take your chances you can be a little bit vulnerable at the back and there’s one thing I’ve been emphasising to the boys, you can’t fault them and that’s why the boys at the back haven’t changed a lot.”

Ashford United should have opened the floodgates inside the 11th minute when centre-half Mohammed Kamara hit a ball over the top of a slow Guernsey back line to put Parish in but his right-footed chip dropped agonisingly over the crossbar.

Warrilow said:  “We did create good chances, the ball in sometimes was a little bit heavy, but overall the way we play and create chances, as long as we start taking them we’ll make life easier for ourselves.”

Ashford United’s right-winger Bode Anidugbe played the ball into Corne’s feet on the edge of the box and he played a short pass back to May, who curled his shot around the top of the far post from 20-yards with the outside of his right boot.

Despite the early flurry of chances, the game was played at a slow tempo, on a sun-kissed spring day.

Guernsey almost grabbed the lead with 13 minutes on the clock.

Left-back Glyn Dyer – who was Guernsey’s weak link as Ashford were dominant down his side of the pitch – played the ball into Dave Rihoy and the midfielder drilled his left-footed shot towards goal from 16-yards.  Mott dived to his right to palm the ball away, the ball was retrieved by Canha close to the by-line and he cut the ball back to Mahon, who stroked his right-footed shot against the top of the crossbar from 16-yards.

“That’s how easy it can be,” added Warrilow.  “All the possession we had and all the chances we had, just one chance like that, that’s what I’m saying. It gives them a lifeline and does it deflate you? Obviously we got away with that but the amount of possession we had, you can’t complain about the result.”

Ashford United produced a slick move halfway through the first half but May wasted the chance.

Afolabi (John) Coker played a one-two with Aboagye and took a touch before whipping in a great cross into the Guernsey box and May’s trademark towering header was straight at Stanton from the edge of the six-yard box.

Full marks to May, however, as he opened the scoring just 51 seconds later, as Ashford United deservedly took the lead with 22 minutes and 51 seconds on the clock.

It was another slick move, this time involving striker Parish and Corne and Parish floated in a deep cross where an unmarked May rose to guide his header into the near corner from 10-yards.  Keeper Stanton stepped to his right but was beaten by the power.

“Fantastic! That’s great football. Right areas, good give and go’s, one-touch, set and Dan’s had a touch, delivered great and Jay’s buried it,” said Warrilow.

“That’s what we could’ve done a lot more but he’s put that one away and it’s broken the ice and obviously it relaxes us a bit more but we got into loads of areas like that.”

Guernsey keeper Stanton pulled off a great save to frustrate May just 116 seconds later.

Winger Toby Ajala – who by this time had swapped flanks – released Aboagye down the right and he whipped in a cross into the Guernsey box.  May rose again and planted his header towards goal, which was palmed over by Stanton.

“Jay’s disappointed that he didn’t get a couple more today but he’s come back from a long injury and had another two weeks out so we’re trying to get him going,” explained Warrilow.

“Jay’s been excellent for us, he’s still not 100% fit but you could see the problems that he causes with different dimensions and I know going into the final part of the season he’s going to be vital for us.”

Referee Kane Dempster was the only person inside the stadium that failed to notice that a Guernsey defender clearly committed a handball offence after McIntyre rose at the far post to head Corne’s deep corner towards goal following the resulting corner.

Warrilow, who noticed Aaron Conn's flag was raised, said: “We thought that (was a penalty) but the ref thought it was Jay and booked him as well, which was disappointing but I thought it was a white arm that went up but little bits like that you’re knocking on the door and that happens and you think is it going to be one of those days?”

Ashford United continued to miss some glorious chances during the rest of an impressive first half performance.

The home side built-up patiently and McIntyre floated over another cross from the left towards the far post for Parish to plant a diving header across the keeper and past the far post from 10-yards.

Guernsey rode the storm, however, and went close to grabbing an equaliser in the 36th minute.

A mistake at the back from Coker, who failed to cut out Dyer’s pass out of defence, released Rihoy down the left-channel and his centre was destined for striker Canha, but Corne nipped in to clear the danger.  Seconds later, the ball came out to Guernsey right-back Tom De La Mare, who drilled a right-footed drive flashing just past the foot of the right-hand post from 35-yards.

Stanton was called into action again, following Ashford’s fourth corner of the game.

Corne swung the ball in from the right and Corne nipped in to shoulder the ball towards goal, the keeper diving to his left to ensure the ball went behind for another corner, which May planted his free-header over the crossbar from 12-yards.

Mott made a comfortable save on his knees in the 39th minute.

Dyer threw the ball to Charlton Gauvain, who flicked his pass through to 14-goal winger Matt Loaring, who played the ball inside to an unmarked Rihoy, who stroked his right-footed shot from 25-yards, which Mott gathered comfortably whilst dropping to his knees.

Warrilow said: “I’ve just said to him what he really had to do? I don’t think he done anything! He had a few balls over the top but no real saves.  Every team in this league are capable of scoring a goal, if you lose your discipline and going gung-ho and you’re going to come unstuck.”

At half-time, Warrilow said:  “I thought overall it was quite quiet but I thought it was a professional performance and we’re disappointed that we haven’t won by more.

“I wanted us to talk more, organise more. We were too lethargic, we’re a little bit too deep and we’re not pressing high enough.

“They all know, that’s the thing, they all know but this is the little bit that we need to get into them. They need to demand off each other and that’s what we’re trying to do.

“I’m not having a go or moaning or whatever but just demanding that. We think about what we’re doing and if we do that and see what happens in the second half. We sort of nullified them.”

Vance called upon the services of target man William Fazakerley at the interval and he forced Mott into keeping his clean sheet record in tact after 69 seconds into the half.

Fazakerley stole the ball off Ashford’s holding midfielder Lee Prescott on the halfway line and skipped past Coker and as space opened up, drilled a left-footed shot towards goal, which was palmed over by Mott, in a one-v-one dual.

“We started slow. We gave the ball away in midfield there. That’s what started that. We were playing in the wrong areas and it’s a counter-attack and that’s what teams are relying on,” added Warrilow.

Mahon swung in Guernsey’s only corner, which was headed clear by Prescott and Rihoy cracked a first time drive screaming over the crossbar from 22-yards.

Corne floated in a deep corner towards the far post but the ball bounced off Coker’s forehead and went past the near post from a couple of yards out.

Ajala played a cross-field pass from right-to-left to find McIntyre in space and he cut inside De La Mare to crack a rasping drive, which was plucked out of the air by Stanton at his near post.

McIntyre was close to the halfway line when he swept a fine diagonal pass to find Parish on the edge of the Guernsey penalty area. He held the ball up and hung over a cross from the right by-line which was met by another header from May, which he steered straight into Stanton’s gloves from six-yards out.

Corne’s flicked pass put Parish through on goal but Stanton kept as big as possible for as long as possible before blocking the shot with his left leg in the 56th minute.

Left-back McIntyre was keen to join attacks and often got in behind De La Mare to get into the channel and he hung over a cross which May brought down inside the box but his driven shot was blocked by Stanton’s legs in the 62nd minute.

Warrilow said: “I think the keeper’s done well. He’s caught a few crosses today.  For us, as long as we keep banging on the door and knocking on the door you’re doing the right thing.

“All we have to do is make life a little bit easier for ourselves by taking our chances.  There’s loads more you’re going to reel off but I’m going to say the same thing all the time!”

Dominant Ashford United kept knocking on the door and finally doubled their lead with 20 minutes and 47 seconds on the clock.

The introduction of left-winger Laurent Mendy just five minutes earlier, lifted Ashford United’s tempo and desire levels.

“Laurent’s been away in France. He’s come in and signed for us the other week. Obviously, I know that Laurent has progressed and what he can give us (having managed him at Thamesmead Town). There’s competition for places now so the boys won’t necessarily come in and have their shirts on pegs.  The bench today was really strong. Last week we only had three subs but this week we’ve got five quality subs on there.”

Mendy picked out McIntyre in space down the left-channel and he easily beat De La Mare to drill in a cross, which screamed across a crowd of players at a high speed. 

In an attempt to smash the ball over his own crossbar, Dodds smashed the ball into his own net for an own-goal.

“He’s smashed it, again Jake’s put it in the right areas. They’re hard to defend. We’ve had a few overhit and whatever but that’s the right thing to do, just drill it across the goal and hopefully a body gets in the way,” said Warrilow.

“It was coming, it was coming all the time. It’s one you’re thinking will they hit us on the counter so you need the second one and when you’ve got the second one you want the third one.

“Overall, the result is not to be shouted down but it could’ve been a few more!”

Ashford United continued to enjoy large spells of possession of the ball and their next chance turned out to be their third goal, timed at 38 minutes and 26 seconds on the clock.

McIntyre was inside his own half and played a fine ball over the top to put Parish through on goal after his pace easily got him past Frank Tobin, the last defender. The striker cut inside and slotted his right-footed shot underneath the keeper to score from 10-yards.

“A great ball. Both forwards today have scored, which is good but they’re disappointed that they haven’t got a couple more I think,” said Warrilow.

“Trey Williams came on and he could’ve got one at the end so all positives in a funny sort of way.”

With Parish notching 18 goals and Corne netting 17, the next highest scorer in today’s squad is holding midfielder Josh Wisson, who has scored three.

Warrilow said: “We need other boys to chip in. We need our centre-halves to chip in. We’re putting up deliveries from corners etc to get on the end of them. That’s the one thing that we need to work on but overall the most important thing is to keep winning games. I don’t care who gets them.”

Dyer floated a free-kick towards the edge of the Ashford box, which was flicked on by Fazakerley and fellow substitute Sebastian Skillen dug the ball out of his feet but his poor attempt rolled towards goal, forcing Mott to use his feet to clear the danger.

Ashford’s holding midfielder (substitute) Wisson played a diagonal pass over to Aboagye, who chased after his own kick down the right wing and wrapped his foot around the ball to whip in a cross but substitute striker Trey Williams smashed his half-volley over the crossbar at the near post - at the end of an impressive days work from Warrilow’s men.

Ashford United face five of the top seven between now and the end of the season, starting with a trip to seventh-placed Hythe Town next Saturday.

The Nuts & Bolts then play Cray Wanderers (away); VCD Athletic (home); Hastings United (away) and Haywards Heath Town (home).

“Doesn’t matter we’ve got a game-in-hand and we’re a point behind and our goal-difference is far superior,” said Warrilow, when asked about winning promotion via the play-off lottery.

“I said to the boys in there, it’s up to us. We’ve got to play all the teams in and around us so it’s down to us. It’s not about anyone else.

“We’ll go for the title until it’s mathematically impossible but now you’re running out of games. If it’s mathematically impossible we’ll still got for it but we’re a realist. If you keep going for that you can finish second and I think that’s the next best thing to have home advantage in the play-offs and I know the importance of home advantage.

“It’s going to be really hard (at Hythe).  Sam Denly said this week they’re playing with a free spirit and looking for next season, boys playing for shirts so they have nothing to lose. We’re going to go there looking to pick the momentum up. I’m sure being a local derby they want to spoil the party but again it’s all about us preparing right and going there with the right mentality.”

Ashford United: Sam Mott, Jerald Aboagye, Jake McIntyre, Lee Prescott (Josh Wisson 82), Afolabi (John) Coker, Mohammed Kamara, Bode Anidugbe, Sam Corne, Jay May (Trey Williams 70), Danny Parish, Toby Ajala (Laurent Mendy 61).
Subs: Kundai Munyama, Clark Woodcock

Goals: Jay May 23, Tom Dodds 66 (own goal), Dan Parish 84

Booked: Jay May 26

Guernsey: Callum Stanton, Tom De La Mare (Keanu Marsh 70), Glyn Dyer, Tom Dodds, Frank Tobin, Jamie Dodd, Dave Rihoy, Liam Mahon, Charlton Gauvain (William Fazakerley 46), Carlos Canha, Matt Loaring (Sebastian Skillen 67).

Attendance: 331
Referee: Mr Kane Dempster (Deal)
Assistants: Mr Aaron Conn (Gillingham) & Mr Simon Cutler (Sheerness)