Ashford battle back to stay on top
Maidenhead 2-2 Ashford
Ashford men’s 1st XI were up against 3rd placed Maidenhead, who sat five points off league leaders Ashford at the start of the day.
Maidenhead had beaten 2nd placed Eastcote the week before, and had won all but three of their games this season, and they started the game very much on the front foot. Straight from the start Maidenhead latched on to a loose ball at the back by Ashford and nearly took the lead in the first minute. They didn’t have to wait too long, as he forced a short corner, which was deflected onto the foot of Kabir Virdi on the line and a Penalty Stroke was given. Goalkeeper Dan Appleyard, managed to get a glove on the resultant stroke, but couldn’t stop the ball going in to the net. Maidenhead continued their pressure high up the pitch and force a second goal ten minutes later, when the ball, somewhat fortuitously, found its way to an unmarked forward on the back post. Ashford had to start to find the form that has lead them to the league summit, and stepped their game higher up the pitch and started finding their own success going forward. Be it not for a top drawer stick save by the Maidenhead keeper, Shujah Ur Rehman would have had the Ashford opener. Ashford started to dominate the ball, and were causing the home side trouble with the pressing of forwards Jamie Hemphrey and Andy Whiting. Ashford finally managed to grab a goal back when Hemphrey was released down the left flank, he subsequently played the ball across to the incoming Whiting who neatly deflected the ball in near post. Ashford were buoyed by the breakthrough and continued to threaten the Maidenhead ‘D’, winning another short corner, this time Rehman rounded the first runner and look to arrow the ball into the top corner, but the ball snuck inches past the wrong side of the post.
Ashford went in to half time as the side in top of play, but behind on scoreline. The Red & Blacks again upped the pressure on their hosts, but once again the home sides keeper made another top save to deny Rehman again. The league’s leading scorer, Rehman, was not to be denied though, as Ashford won another short corner, this time he managed to find a route through the keepers legs and Ashford had their equaliser. Knowing they had to win to stand a chance of promotion, Maidenhead ramped up the pressure and forced a couple late short corners of their own. A couple of smart saves by Appleyard and one stop on the line by Kabir Virdi, meant that the gae finished 2-2 and Ashford maintained top position.
Ashford now face a top of the table clash against Eastcote, who sit one point behind Ashford, with a win for either side, putting daylight between them and the rest of the pack.