Supersubs are crucial as Yellamen win 3-1
Ascot United called on all their resources to beat Holyport 3-1 in yet another comeback win on Thursday evening. Trailing 1-0 and running out of luck, all five substitutes kickstarted what was looking like an unlikely turnaround as one of them – Marcus Mealing (pictured, library image) – continued his good form with a brace.
It seemed a long time since The Yellamen had been dumped out of the FA Cup by Holyport in what was one of just four defeats they have suffered this season, and the home side would no doubt take some inspiration from being one of just three teams who have got the better of Ascot alongside Flackwell Heath (twice) and Hilltop.
But Ascot were still strong favourites against a side in a much better place than last season but certainly not safe from relegation, and they were able to rotate key players back into the starting line up having made changes for their league cup win just two days earlier.
The game survived a 7pm pitch inspection, and on a difficult surface Ascot started well as Brendan Matthew’s shot squirmed under home ‘keeper Matteo Giacobbe and agonisingly wide in the 18th minute.
At the other end, Rhys Forster raced off his line and bravely saved with his feet from Ramon Rose, and Forster would later save from the same player who escaped Rob Gerrard’s attentions just after the half-hour mark, although in between those efforts Sean McCormack dragged wide for Ascot.
But the home side took a 35th minute lead when Rose was left in acres of space to slot home, and although Harry Grant fired wide for Ascot and then the referee’s assistant waved for offside after they had been awarded a penalty for hand-ball later on, it remained 1-0 to Holyport at the break.
Recently, the second half of Ascot’s games have failed to live up to the first in terms of action, but on this occasion it was very much a different feast.
The Yellamen swarmed around Holyport like wasps early-on as Giacobbe made a stunning save to divert Harry Grant’s close-range thunderbolt away before making another fine intervention to thwart Matthew when on both occasions it looked odds-on as if Ascot would equalise. Matthew was, however, fouled as he shot – no penalty given – and he would hobble off to be replaced by Mealing.
And credit to the visitors who continued to try and play football on a deteriorating pitch; Dan Bailey’s header was cleared off the line and Alfie Grant’s effort went over the bar from virtually underneath it as Ascot somehow failed to score, before manager Jamie Tompkins made three more crucial changes.
One of them – the ever-energetic Kai Walters – was shoved in the box with 17 minutes of normal time remaining allowing Mealing the chance to atone for recent spot-kick woes, which he duly did by lacing the ball past Giacobbe; game very much on.
At the other end, the good work was almost undone when Forster’s thrown clearance was intercepted by Harry Hoath, but his left-footed shot sailed a few inches wide of the left-hand post; relief amongst the travelling faithful.
But after home defender Sam Jones was dismissed for a two-footed challenge on another exceptional Ascot substitute who had come on just after half-time – Sam Balogun – there would be only one winner.
And, just five minutes later, Walters earnt his side a corner, Harry Grant swung it across, and Mealing got enough purchase on his far post header that bounced down and into the far right-hand corner for his and Ascot’s second goal of the night.
But after the earlier injury to Matthew, cautions, substitutions and earlier time-wasting there was still to be an incredible twelve minutes of added time, and although Holyport huffed and puffed they failed to seriously trouble Forster. And, they were ultimately undone on the break in the 101st minute when the simply outstanding Sean McCormack escaped down the right wing before cutting the ball back for substitute Duarte Surpanu – who took one touch and smashed the ball into the bottom right-hand corner from just off centre to seal the three points.
It was a case of as-you-were at the top after Reading City’s win at London Lions, but games are ticking away and The Yellamen continue to show it is never over until it is over; this now being the fifteenth time in 43 games this season they have won after going behind.
Games will now come thick and fast, and Wembley are the visitors to The Racecourse on Saturday as the charge on fixture congestion continues. But it’s one game at a time as the squad’s depth will seek to lengthen their season for their faithful travelling fans, who creditably matched their home counterparts at Summerleaze on an evening that both started and finished late.
And, it was better late than never – and most importantly it was once again a case of never say die.