Rob does the job with injury time winner
Super sub Rob Gerrard popped up with a 94th minute winner to earn Ascot United a crucial 1-0 victory against battling Wokingham and Emmbrook on Saturday. With the game in its dying embers and the Sumas on the verge of completing what would have been a memorable shut-out, the big defender popped up on the overlap to hammer an unstoppable shot into the bottom right hand corner, preserving Ascot’s seven-point lead at the top.
The visitors, struggling near the wrong end of the table, had pushed The Yellamen all the way before losing the reverse fixture, and coming into the game they had done the same against high-flying Reading City during the prior midweek only to lose by the odd goal in three.
Ascot also handed a second debut to goalkeeper Rhys Forster, signed on loan from Slough Town to cover for injured Jamie Ashdown, and he was present to witness Forster produce a fantastic second-half save with the game delicately poised.
Forster’s only other first team appearance came in 2017 when, as a product of the Ascot United Development side, he stepped up for a league cup tie – and five-and-a half years later he slotted back into Jamie Tompkins’ squad that included three other players alongside him that day; George Lock, Louis Bouwers and Jordan Ajanlekoko.
Lock was in the wars in the first half on the end of blows to the chest, hip and head, but would survive a half low on clear-cut chances in a typically committed display.
The visitors threatened first when Josh Mello crossed for both Jake Woods and then Sam Mead in quick succession, although the former was well blocked and the latter headed over.
After that, most of the chances came at the other end as the lively Marcus Mealing headed over under pressure from Jay Welch’s cross before spinning away from his marker and seeing another effort deflected wide – Welch again the provider – but Ascot came closest in the move of the half just after the half-hour mark. This time, Forster’s long kick found Keaton August, he passed inside for Kai Walters, and Walters did well to fashion a cross that Harry Grant scooped over under pressure at the near post.
Jordan Ajanlekoko might have done better when Dan Bailey’s header came back across the area only for the ball to cannon off his knee into ‘keeper Sean Woodward’s arms as Ascot turned the screw, before Woodward saved well from both Mealing and Usman Lalustani late-on; August also unable to fire home the loose ball on a couple of occasions.
After the break, Mealing continued to fashion the chances and indeed Ascot should have led when August side-footed wide on the volley from Mealing’s exquisite 53rd minute cross.
Manager Jamie Tompkins then rang the changes with Brendan Matthew brilliantly denied by Woodward’s instinctive save one minute after his introduction, but Wokingham still posed a threat and Forster’s sprawling save would deny Josh Mello when he went for the near post from Sam Mead’s cross. But his next save – shortly after Alfie Grant’s header for Ascot was cleared off the line at the other end, eclipsed his earlier effort when he got down brilliantly to beat substitute Joao Jardim’s away in the 80th minute.
With time ticking away, Louis Bouwers came on in a final throw of Ascot’s dice, and his presence, combined with that of Matthew and Mealing eventually led to the winner. And, when Matthew had finally laid the ball off to a marauding Gerrard, the popular left back wrapped his left boot around the ball which flew past the excellent Woodward into the bottom right hand corner to spark delirium amongst the home faithful (pictured celebrating his goal, shooting-stars.co.uk).
There was no time for a response, and Forster celebrated his second clean sheet for The Yellamen.
The travelling supporters were in fine voice throughout and will take heart from their side’s performance, although only points mean prizes and for Ascot it was another step towards their goal.
But it’s back to business at Hilltop on Tuesday.
Ascot United: Forster, Lock (Gerrard 65’), Ajanlekoko, A. Grant, Bailey, Welch, Walters (Matthew 65’), H. Grant (Bouwers 90’), Mealing, Lalustani (Ellis 65’), August (McCormack 58’).