‘Port survive late onslaught to advance 2-1

Ascot United were dumped out of the Emirates FA Cup after a 2-1 defeat at Holyport on Saturday. However, the scoreline scarcely tells the tale of a feisty game where both sides ended with ten men after eleven minutes of nerve-jangling stoppage time.

The meeting between these two unbeaten sides had attracted interest amongst the local non-league fraternity with players on each side having played for the other, and the simple fact this was a clash between two sides ten miles apart and vying for a place in the first qualifying round.

Holyport were the better side in the first half and but for visiting ‘keeper Jamie Ashdown and an offside flag they might have been further ahead than their 1-0 half time advantage.

Harry Hoath’s seventh minute free kick was almost converted by Fabien Etienne as he attempted to glance a header into the right-hand corner, but Hoath would tee up his side’s opener four minutes later with a free kick that bounced back off Josh Masters for him to swing back in for Kritpac Dzimba to convert from close range.

It might have been two-nil less than a minute later only for Christian Johnson to see his shot deflected wide after wriggling through a couple of challenges and bearing down on Ashdown, but Ascot grew into the game and Sean McCormack might have converted at the far post when Masters swung the ball in.

But Ascot were indebted to Ashdown when he spread himself to deny Johnson’s near post flick just before the half-hour mark and Holyport were denied again five minutes later – this time by an offside flag – when Dzimba volleyed in first-time from Hoath’s free-kick.

Ashdown then needed to be alert within sixty seconds of the restart to deny Johnson again, although he found the net in the 51st minute to make it 2-0 with a shot on the turn after having the strength to hold up the ball well.

A trio of substitutions midway through the half assisted Ascot’s fightback, and one of them – Marcus Mealing – delightfully flicked on for Brendan Matthew to slot past Mohammad Ayoub (pictured, shooting-stars.co.uk).

But then the game became farcical as Ayoub’s constant timewasting led to an altercation with Mealing  – who tried to get the ball back to continue play – only for Ayoub to strike Mealing and receive a straight red card.

The numerical advantage would probably have led to Holyport’s downfall, and Ascot were denied a clear penalty when substitute Kai Walters was tripped in the box, before parity in personnel was restored when Ascot’s Harry Grant received his marching orders for a poor tackle only five minutes later, but at the 75 minute mark there was still plenty of time for Ascot including a glut of stoppage time.

And, Ascot threw the proverbial kitchen sink at their hosts; Walters’ flick was clawed away by replacement ‘keeper. After that, McCormack had a chance at the far post, Matthews rounded the ‘keeper but ran out of pitch before seeing a bullet header brilliantly saved, but the heroic fightback never peaked and The Yellamen will rue a missed opportunity.

It’s back to business at Egham Town on Tuesday evening.

Ascot United: Ashdown, Welch, Masters, Ajanlekoko (Walters 57’), Bailey, Tucker, McCormack, Grant (sent off 75’), Laflin (Mealing 57’), Matthew, Harris (August 61’). Subs unused: Lock, Gray, Merrick, Bouwers.

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