Ascot United ground out a narrow one-nil win against Southall on Saturday afternoon to move top of the Combined Counties League Premier Division. In the day’s only Premier Division fixture as FA Vase qualifying began elsewhere, a solitary own-goal was enough as both sides were reduced to ten men.
|19/09/2020||15:00||Combined Counties - Premier||2020-2021|
Manager Jamie Tompkins handed Ben Hodges a start on his 100th appearance for the club, whereas Aaron Berry retained his place in the starting line-up after impressing during midweek – leaving plenty of firepower ready to make an impact from the bench.
Ascot were the livelier side in the first half – getting the better of the dusty, windy conditions – and it wasn’t until the closing stages of the half that Southall threatened ‘keeper Sam Gray.
Before that, Ascot created a succession of chances. Berry’s shot found the midriff of home ‘keeper Laurencin Berkley midway through the half, although it was defender James McCluskey who turned Jonny Denton’s corner into his own net to give Ascot a 26th minute lead. Riccardo Andrady had earlier done well to earn the corner, and Dan Bailey slammed the ball home just in case there was any doubt that the ball hadn’t already crossed the line off McCluskey.
James Haworth then tested Berkeley from distance as Ascot threatened to add a second, although Southall finished the half promisingly only for Ryan Hope to blast over after Luke Hennegan had rolled a free kick to him and Hennegan saw his own hopeful free kick from a tight angle beaten away by Gray.
Southall would boss possession after the restart but for all their endeavour would struggle to create a clear-cut chance. McLuskey’s shot from distance sailed over the bar and was the best they could muster before Haworth dragged his shot wide for Ascot when well-placed. And, after Hennegan’s wasteful free-kick sailed over later in the half, the odds swung in Ascot’s favour as Southall lost their heads. Jack Roper was lucky to escape with just a yellow card after scything down substitute James Richardson when clean through, although it was McCluskey who was dismissed in the 80th minute after the linesman had spotted an incident off the ball.
Richardson forced a fine, diving save from Berkeley soon afterwards, fellow substitute Aiden Higgs hit the bar after Hodges had played him in, before Hennegan wasted Southall’s final chance with another free kick over the bar as injury time beckoned.
And, injury time itself proved eventful. Third and final replacement Sam Evans volleyed agonisingly wide after Richardson’s shot fell invitingly at his feet before Richardson was crudely taken out by Jack Roper as he once again broke clear; another yellow card ensued. Between those chances, Higgs received his marching orders for a second yellow card, but winning ugly is better than not winning at all and Ascot now have Tuesday off before next weekend’s tough test at Hanworth Villa.
Ascot United: Gray, Lock, Haworth, Carey, Bouwers, Bailey, Andrady, Denton, Davies (Higgs 61’), Hodges (Evans 84’), Berry (Richardson 75’). Sub unused: Laflin