Ascot beaten 2-1 despite dominating
Ascot United’s fantastic second half performance came to nothing as Ashford Town (Middx) took their chances on Tuesday evening. Goalless after an awful first half, the Yellamen were fantastic after the break, but despite Brendan Matthew bagging a landmark goal, the hosts scored early and late in the period to break Ascot’s hearts.
Yellamen looking for points as a prize
Ascot were looking for points to catalyse their season after promising performances had yielded little over the past month; just one win in seven for them in all competitions. However, Ashford are another well-established step four side and have spent all but two seasons above step five in the past two decades, so this was set up to be another tough test.
First half – horribly ugly
The first half was a poor spectacle as the home side’s long ball and long throw-in combination failed to pay dividends, whereas the visitors huffed and puffed but gave the ball away all-too-often when within decent range of the goal.
For the record, Ascot’s Harry Grant sliced a shot over when well-placed after seventeen minutes, before Dan Bailey’s fine block at the other end snuffed out striker Adam Poynter’s low shot five minutes later.
In a rare moment of quality, Ollie Lahtinen-Kalsi defended one attack and initiated another for The Yellamen – intelligently heading away from danger into space before picking out Grant – who dinked a sublime ball over the top for Brendan Matthew, although his shot was well blocked before Grant fired the loose ball wide.
Ashford’s Qasim Khan’s 33rd minute air shot on the turn when well-placed summed up the half – he should really have done better when unmarked and central – but the biggest cheer was for the half-time whistle.
Second half – surely better?
Indeed it was, although it didn’t start well for Ascot who found themselves behind inside thirty seconds of the restart when Jack Arnold dribbled towards the near post and beat Hugo Sobte with a poorly-struck shot, punishing sleepy defending.
But that cued nothing short of a battering as Ascot laid siege to Ashford’s goal.
Firstly, Bailey headed over from Sean McCormack’s corner – 49 minutes played – then defender Ahkeem Belford brilliantly cut out Matthew’s cross-shot four minutes later that a prowling McCormack would have surely otherwise converted at the far post four minutes later.
McCormack and Ryan Case then both blasted well-placed free kicks over the bar, and the former then struck the front of the crossbar directly from a corner; 72 minutes played.
Impact substitute Harry Laflin then got in on the act, firstly with a difficult glancing header from Matthew’s cross that sailed inches over the bar and then with another header that deflected over for a corner.
But after leading a charmed life, Ascot finally struck with ten minutes to go as Matthew rose highest from McCormack’s corner to head home; just rewards for him on a night when he went outright third on Ascot’s all-time goalscoring roster.
Sucker punch hard to take
At this point there really only looked one winner as The Yellamen swarmed around the hosts with vigour, Laflin again going close with yet another header from Case’s cross – although to be fair to Ashford they might have scored directly after Ascot had taken the lead in what was a trainwreck of attacking and defending; Sobte flapping around like a bat on happy pills to thwart frankly comical attempts by Ashford to convert.
But the real sickener came in the 91st minute as Ashford found their way into Ascot’s half for only the third meaningful time of the half, and after Sam Sesay had snaffled the ball across from the right, Khan was on hand in acres of space at the far post to slam home.
Ashford substitute Deven Reid-Solanki’s hopeless attempt to add a third even later-on when Ascot had thrown bodies forward summed up the hosts’ quality, but results matter and the three points ultimately landed at a venue near Heathrow.
That’s life, as Esther used to say.
What’s next for Ascot?
A jaunt into leafy Surrey this Saturday with a league match at Chipstead, before struggling local rivals Binfield visit The Racecourse next Tuesday.
Ascot United: Sobte, Lock, Lahtinen-Kalsi (Laflin 66’), Bailey, Case, McCormack, Killeen, Balogun (Welch 61’), Ajanlekoko, Matthew, H. Grant, Subs unused: Morgan, Surpanu, Hayes
Reporter’s Star Man: Brendan Matthew (Ascot United)
Away fans (estimate): 25