HARRY IS HOUDINI AS ASCOT RESCUE DRAW

#WeAreAscot.

Men's First Team 2023-24

Late Laflin leveller keeps Ascot in Cup

Supersub Harry Laflin came off the bench and scored a dramatic 89th minute equaliser as Ascot United drew 1-1 with Ardley United in the Emirates FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round. The Yellas, playing again just 76 days after lifting the FA Vase, were never at the races and unhelped by the man in the middle, but eventually cancelled out Gavin James’s 56th minute penalty to set up a replay.

The first half was a poor spectacle with Ascot unable to register a single shot on target whereas the hosts only threatened once when Jordy Ngathe’s lob over the advancing Hugo Sobte nestled on the roof of the net; Liam Talboys exposing the Yellas with a long ball over the top.

Familiar names in cup campaigns

Ascot and Ardley are synonymous with cup exploits over the past decade; the two sides having met each other in as many league cup finals, before The Nolan Oils Ground was the neutral venue for Ascot’s most recent league cup win again Windsor in 2019. However, the Yellas have never been past the first qualifying round of the world’s most famous cup competition, and for 89 minutes of this affair it looked as if the hoodoo would continue.

Spine retained and strength attained to bolster Yellamen

Manager Jamie Tompkins had been quick to strengthen his side for their debut at Step 4; Luqman Kassim returning to the club from Finland, joining new faces Sobte, Oliver Lahtinen-Kalsi and Harvey Killeen. But the team still had its familiar shape as club captain and defender Dan Bailey, wing wizard Sean McCormack and hot shot Brendan Matthew also featured alongside them in a starting line-up littered with talent.

Kassim would threaten late in the first half with a run down the left, but home ‘keeper Craig Hill did superbly well to palm Kassim’s cross into a safe zone around the penalty spot, before the ball was cleared.

Lahtinen-Kalsi also impressed, but he would become the last of six Ascot United players to be booked and was harshly penalised for Ardley’s penalty which James comfortably slotted into the right hand-corner 11 minutes after the restart.

Before Ardley’s opener Ascot had looked lively, forcing four corners inside five minutes of the restart off the back of Kassim who had almost punished slack defending only to see his shot deflected wide, but Ardley survived and Ascot looked otherwise struggling for ideas.

Solid Sobte saves the day

The Ascot number one jersey had received much focus after Jamie Ashdown and Rhys Forster had both left big gloves behind to be filled, but Sobte stepped in with confident feet and handling – none more so than his world-class 61st minute finger-tip save that had just enough on it to divert Mason Courtney’s hit onto the crossbar; that would surely have been a mortal blow had it gone in.

Laffers has the last laugh

However, the Yellas never stopped probing and just three minutes after his introduction, Harry Laflin showed the most desire from Sean McCormack’s corner – itself awarded after Killeen’s cross-shot had been fumbled wide by Turner – thumping an unstoppable header into the right hand corner to spark more of a sigh of relief than anything else from the traveling faithful.

That was that, and it’s all back to Ascot on Tuesday for the replay. Ardley will attempt to re-inflate themselves. Ascot – and the officials – can only be better. But the stats speak for themselves as it’s just one defeat in 46 matches inside 90 minutes dating back ten months for Tompkins’ side; Ascot United notoriously hard to beat.

The Yellas are up and running at Step 4. It’s all good.

Ascot United: Sobte, Lock (Laflin 86’), Ajanlekoko, A.Grant, Bailey (Allsop 75’), McCormack, Killeen, Matthew, Lahtinen-Kalsi, Welch, Kassim (Gater 75’). Subs unused: Balogun, Sykes, Gerrard, Morgan

Entertainment: 2

Star Man: Craig Hill (Ardley)

Away fans (estimate): 30

Yellow cards: Welch, Killeen, Matthew, Bailey, Lahtinen-Kalsi, McCormack

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