All the tricks but no treat for Lunn’s men
Pavi leads second half fightback to scare West Hampstead
Befitting of Halloween, the trip to West Hampstead could have been a nightmare for Ashford 3s as Lunn’s men conceded a soft goal in the first few minutes. Then 15 minutes in left back John Hunt was sidelined with a groin strain, forcing sub Cameron Dare to fill in for the remainder of the match. The horror show continued in the unseasonably warm weather as the Short Laners failed to settle and retain possession.
There were signs of improvement as the first half wore on: a good steal and breakaway chance for right-winger Jamie Tilt; incisive balls into the D by Cameron Dare and Stephen Forster; and a pen-corner. However, the boys in RednBlack were just off the pace in comparison to their hosts who doubled their lead from a stroke for an Ashford foot on the goal-line.
But a trait of this 3s team led by Chris Lunn is they are never down and out. Refreshed with oranges at half-time, Ashford started the second half with greater energy and intent to play the pass-and-move brand of hockey that has served them well to date. Patient build up through improved link up play between the midfield and forwards led to sustained possession. Making his return to the side following a two-week break in India, Pavi Aulakh started to showcase his trademark trickery in the midfield while David Merchant continued his strong runs down the left flank. Within five minutes good team play led to a short corner that Pavi Aulakh cleanly dispatched (with the assistance of a stick/foot from David Merchant?).
Shaken by Ashford’s renewed vigour, West Hampstead began to concede the ball cheaply. With players now running hard off the ball to find space and Gordon Smith firing incisive pushes and aerials from the back Ashford were playing to their strengths again. A driving run into the D from midfield by James Berressem led to another pen-corner. Pavi Aulakh produced another clean, crisp low strike in the corner and he had his second score until skipper Lunn stole the goal with a feather touch - so just an assist for Pavi. Ashford back from the dead and on level terms at 2-2 with 15 minutes to play.
West Hampstead re-grouped and wasted little time in retaking the lead. Ultimately, it was Ashford’s hesitation after a West Hampstead swing-and-miss shot from close range and their failure to the clear from the D which cost them as a lifted reverse hit deflected off James Berressem’s hip and inside Andrew Ritchie’s right post. Sun still beating down, the tempo of the contest remained high. The hosts wasted several good chances to put the game to bed, offering Ashford the hope of a point in return for their much improved second-half display. But despite Ashford’s best efforts, West Hampstead held on for the 3-2.
Back at base camp the team nominated Pavi Aulakh as MoM. Lunn’s men will look to return to winning ways this Saturday as they host Oxford, pushback 10.30am