GOALIE GRAY KEEPS OUT GREENFORD

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Ascot stopper sensational in 3-2 win

Sam Gray produced a goalkeeping masterclass to thwart free-scoring North Greenford as Ascot United extended their winning sequence to six games on Saturday. The hosts’ number one saved a penalty and produced a quite stunning double save late in the second half to secure the win; Harry Laflin scoring twice before Sean McCormack added another. However, it was the controversial second half dismissal of Keaton August which put Ascot under added pressure, although they clung on to celebrate a superb victory.

Ascot had two new defenders in their starting line-up as manager Jamie Tompkins looked to ease their defensive gaps against a free-scoring North Greenford side who had averaged three goals per game. Adam Everiss signed during midweek from Basingstoke Town, and another debutant – Ben Gill – was also drafted in from Chalfont St Peter in a short-term capacity to cover for Louis Bouwers (injured) and Dan Bailey (suspended).

Man-of-the-match Gray was at it early-on when, after Everiss had tripped Harrison Okwu in the box, he guessed right and dived to his right to keep out Joe Mills’ spot-kick.

George Lock then scooped the ball away from danger after Kevin Maresi’s cross-shot beat Gray, before Ascot took the lead on 15 minutes when Laflin nonchalantly looped a header past Sam House from Chris Ellis’s long throw-in.

But the visitors responded five minutes later when an off-balance Harvey Killeen’s shot was saved by Gray, only for Charlie Mitchell to bury the rebound into an open goal.

Gray then denied Maresi again – this time when clean through – but the Ellis-Laflin combination would pay dividends again five minutes before the break after August had done well to win the throw-in that led to Ascot ultimately taking a 2-1 half-time lead.

And within a minute of the restart it was 3-1 when Laflin turned provider with a left-wing cross that Sean McCormack ran onto at the far post to plant a header past House.

It should have been 4-1 on the hour mark only for House to thwart August who had capitalised on Sammy Olanipekun’s awful backpass, but Olanipekun would plant a free header past Gray from a corner soon afterwards to cut the deficit to 3-2; albeit he would subsequently limp off after pulling up in the celebrations.

But the real talking point was August’s 75th minute dismissal that left The Yellamen with over twenty minutes to survive with a numerical disadvantage. August would legitimately attempt to bring a high ball under control and his foot clipped stooping defender Tyrique Rashid’s head. With August himself injured and ready to limp off, the referee lost patience, deemed the challenge violent conduct, and a red card was shown to the amazement of The Racecourse faithful.

From that moment it was a heroic effort from the hosts. Lock threw himself in front of a ferocious free-kick and McCormack himself tracked deep to muck-in, but it was Gray’s outstanding double save with five minutes of normal time remaining that had the fans on their feet as he somehow reacted to Mills’ effort with an instinctive follow-up save and preserve three golden points for The Yellamen.

Ascot United: Gray, Lock, Everiss, Harper, Gill, Ellis, McCormack, Denton, Laflin (Nortey), August (sent off), Ferguson (Rashid). Subs unused: Thompson, Surpanu, Graham

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