Sweet win after eight for Ashford
First half hat-trick from Shane Smith sets up goal bonanza at Short Lane
Following two good back-to-back wins, a confident Ashford 3s dominated bottom of the table Burton & Sherborne in a one-sided midday outing at Short Lane.
Welcoming back Rob Forster, Stephen Law, James Maitland and Shane Smith to the team, skipper Chris Lunn set up his ever-adaptable men in the 3-4-3 formation that proved so effective in the recent home win over Wycombe. Law and Maitland lined up at the back with ever-present Stephen Forster while his brother Rob joined James Berressem in the central midfield role.
Ashford's start to the match was somewhat disjointed as players bedded in to their roles and the formation. Failing to hold possession in the early moments allowed the visitors to venture into the Ashford half but only one of these attacks produced a save from keeper John Hunt, which provde to be his only telling contribution during the 70 minutes.
The Short Laners soon settled as they strung together a series of short passes and retained the ball, allowing the back three to build the platform going forward by smartly shifting the point of attack. This released David Merchant Jnr and Pavi Aulakh to make their penetrating carries down the left and right channels respectively. With five minutes gone Ashford had upped the tempo and through a typical short range effort Shane Smith opened the scoring (1-0).
Within two minutes Ashford doubled their lead from their first pen corner thanks to injector/post-poacher Chris Lunn turning in a clean, low strike from Pavi Aulakh (2-0). Keen to build on their earlier advantage Ashford pressed hard for the third. Chances came and went for Max Perman and David Merchant, who found the centre of the B&S keeper's pads on several occasions. However, Shane Smith benefited from the team's industrious play, netting twice in quick succession to top an excellent first-half performance with a well-deserved hat-trick (4-0).
Not tempted to sit on the four-goal cushion, Ashford set about the second half with typical intensity looking to improve the campaign's goal difference. Within five minutes Pavi Aulakh added to the tally, cutting in from the right to finish with a fine tomahawk strike from the top of the D (5-0). Several pen-corners followed as the B&S defence creaked under relentless RednBlack pressure but the various Ashford strikers failed to convert.
Throughout the second half forwards Lunn, Smith, Max Perman and Lewis Baber tirelessly imposed a coordinated high press, effectively denying the B&S backline of outlets and producing turnover ball in the visitors' half which the Ashford midfielders gleefully mopped up time and again. In possession Ashford continued to threaten with the ball. When skipper Lunn appeared mysteriously on the right flank, cut into the D along the baseline and squared a 90-ball Rob Forster popped up on the top of the D to slam home Ashford's sixth game.
At yet another pen-corner captain Lunn insisted the home side revert to its plan A, which had worked so effectively in the first half. However, this time a B&S shin on the goal-line denied Lunn of a second goal. After a consultation (requested by Lunn) between umpires Jenkins and Flanagan the latter rightly altered his initial decision and awarded the penalty stroke. Captain Lunn bravely nominated Robert Forster, who stepped up and fired wide of the target – earning Robert the coveted DoD award.
In the last 10 minutes Lunn did eventually net a second goal from another Pavi Aulakh struck pen-corner, a carbon-copy of his first (7-0). And with the game in its dying moments Robert Forster, keen to make a mends for his stroke error, produced a fine tomahawk hit from outside the left-hand post to chalk up his second goal and cap Ashford's 8-nil victory.
Following discussions and votes the team agreed the MoM award be shared based on Shane Smith's first-half hat-trick contribution and James Maitland's calm and assured play at centre-back throughout the game.