Composed Ashford see off Newbury & Thatcham
Ashford 2-0 Newbury & Thatcham
Ashford men’s 1st XI were hosting Newbury & Thatcham at Short Lane over the weekend, looking to maintain top spot going into the Easter break.
Ashford were boosted by the returns of Piers Du Boulay, Adam Dunbavand, Jamie Hemphrey and Tom Pitfield back into the match day squad, giving the team added strength and depth going into the penultimate game of the season. Ashford started well, working the ball around the back, into midfield and then sharply to Jamie Hemphrey who was free inside the D, his turn and snapshot rocketed narrowly over the bar, for the games first chance. This was a sign of things to come; the home side dominating possession whilst failing to find the finishing touch to put them ahead on the scoresheet. Ashford remained patient in their play, knowing another opportunity would come, and won their first short corner of the match at the midpoint of the first half. Shujah Ur Rehman stepped up to fire home his 51st league goal of the season, with a trademark dragflick into the top corner. Knowing there was a lot of time left in the game, Ashford remained composed, but were warned about their opponents counter attacking abilities, when the visitors broke to win a couple of short corners in quick succession. The corners were well defend by the Ashford back line, but it served as a warning to the home side that they needed the second goal to make the lead comfortable.
Going into the second half, Ashford were determined to double their lead and put the game to bed early. But once again, for all of the good build up play Ashford couldn’t quite find a way past the Newbury & Thatcham goalkeeper. The visiting side were working hard to make things difficult for the league leaders, but the agricultural challenges and fouls built up and they started getting cards, allowing Ashford to pass the ball around without much pressure. The added space allowed Rehman, who had dropped a little deeper, to launch an aerial over the top of the Newbury & Thatcham side, to a galloping Hemphrey up top. Hemphrey was able to skin his man and get to the baseline of the D, and his shot come cross took a deflection off a defenders stick, which put the ball past the keeper and gave the Red & Blacks a well needed and thoroughly deserved second goal. With the two goal cushion, Ashford were able to keep possession and see out the rest of the game comfortably.
Ashford have remained unbeaten at Short Lane this season; winning 10 and drawing 1. The Red & Blacks stay in top spot with one game to go against Eastcote 2s. With Eastcote 1s winning, it means that both sides have 49 points, with Ashford having the far superior goal difference.