Red & Blacks remain top
Ashford 2-2 Eastcote
Ashford men’s 1st XI were at home to promotion rivals Eastcote, in what was a battle of the top two sides in the MBBO Regional 1. A win for either side would have put daylight between themselves and the chasing pack.
Eastcote dominated the ball early, but were matched by a well organised Ashford defence, who had conceded just 19 goals prior to this match. The game then evened out over the next ten minutes, with both side looking after the ball well, but not really finding many openings. The first real chance of the match went to the home side, winning a short corner which was well saved by the Eastcote goalkeeper, but in the breakdown Ashford won another short corner. This one resulted in the keeper saving again, but the ball fell to Shujah Ur Rehman and as he was about to pull the trigger an Eastcote defender took him out, and a penalty stroke was given. Rehman stepped up and fired the ball in to the tope corner, sending the keeper the wrong way in the process. Ashford were controlling the game with their shape very well at this point, and could have furthered their lead, but unfortunately couldn’t convert any of their chances. With the half closing out, Eastcote made one more push to try and find their own breakthrough, and somewhat fortuitously were awarded a short corner. From the short corner the Eastcote flicker failed to pick up the ball, but managed to squeeze the ball past the Ashford runners, with the help of a few unseen fouls, and fire a low hard shot into the corner to equalise. Ashford were incensed, but managed to keep a lid on it and make it to half time without receiving any cards.
Ashford refocused during the break and came out the better side, opening up the visiting side, but failing to put away their chances. Eventually, Ashford won another short corner, this time Rehman fired the ball low and hard toward the corner. The keeper could only divert the ball to the incoming injector, Joe Lewis, who calmly laid the ball off to Andy Whiting and he coolly flicked the ball in from a few yards out. As Eastcote pushed up to try and find another equaliser, Ashford sat back on the counter and were able to utilise the space in behind and carved out another number of opportunities, but yet again were unable to find the back of the net. With Ashford sat back, the Eastcote team were nearly all in the home sides half, a cleverly disguised ball from the Eastcote full back, found its way through the Ashford side, to an Eastcote forward on the right hand side of the D. He was able to pick up the ball, turn and find his teammate, who finished into an empty net. A frustrating goal to concede, for the home side, as it was one of only a couple chances the visiting side had in the second half. With the game drawing to a close, Eastcote worked the ball to their left, where their full back got under a reverse hit and the ball rocketed in to the side of Ashford skipper Luke Cottrell head. After a couple of minutes of magic sponge action, he picked up his stick and the game was up running again. The break gave both sides a breather, and when play resumed, Ashford managed to control the ball and see out the remaining couple of minutes without any scares.
A point for both sides, and a Maidenhead loss, means Ashford remain top – one point ahead of Eastcote, and now six points ahead of third place Maidenhead. Ashford are now away against Oxford, who are very strong at home, so there is no easing up for the Red and Blacks.