Title contenders share spoils in entertaining affair
Ascot United survived a first-half onslaught to draw 1-1 at Spelthorne Sports on Saturday. At half time it would have been viewed as a point gained, but after taking the lead Ascot conceded a late equaliser against ten-man Sports to leave it more of a case of two points dropped.
Both sides had chances in the first half but it was the home side who created most of them – Harrison Livingstone one of the standout players – and he was denied by a superb save from Sam Gray in the sixteenth minute after latching onto a horrible back-pass.
Two minutes later, Taylor Morgan might have done better when goal-side for Ascot only to cross instead of shoot; Aiden Higgs not anticipating the far-post delivery.
Higgs then curled agonisingly wide of an upright and Dan Bailey’s header back across the goal somehow eluded everyone, but from that moment on the visitors were indebted to Gray for keeping them in it.
Billy Frost’s rising effort fizzed over, Livingstone played in Chris Martin Thomas who saw Gray save with his feet, before Frost’s sensational through-ball released Livingstone – who fired into the side-netting.
Gray’s fine punch averted danger when Lewis Flatman swung in a dangerous cross as half time approached and even when he was beaten two minutes into first-half injury time his goal remained intact as Martin-Thomas’s deflected effort squirmed inches wide.
But the second half was a much better affair for Ascot and after changing their formation, it looked for long periods as if they would nick something.
And, they almost did early on – Higgs nipping into to capitalize on defensive hesitancy, only to see his header cannon back off the left-hand post.
Defensive qualities were certainly not in the shop window as Ascot reached for the self-destruct button – gifting the ball away in defence once again – only for Livingstone to blast over.
Defender Chris Ellis made a welcome return after his nightmare year out as he joined Ian Davies in a brace of 64th minute substitutions, and then Ascot looked a different proposition with Harry Laflin pushed forward into midfield.
And, they took the lead in the 67th minute. This time, Riccardo Andrady’s cross deflected for a corner, from which Dan Bailey met Denton’s delivery with a thunderous header that flew into the back of the net.
Home defender Sam Rees then saw red for a late challenge on Josh Masters with fifteen minutes to go, although Sports rolled up their sleeves and after Martin-Thomas was hacked down in the penalty area only to see play waved on, they equalised five minutes from time when Veron Kokurinkov was on hand to tap-in after Gray could only parry a deflected cross.
Incredibly, the Denton-Bailey combination almost led to a carbon-copy goal as Ascot looked to win it in the 88th minute, but the ball stayed out amid a sea of legs, and the game fittingly ended one-all.
Morgan (hamstring) and Higgs (head) will no doubt be assessed ahead of Tuesday’s visit of Cobham, but with Ellis back in the action and Louis Bouwers on the fringe of match fitness there is light at the end of the treatment room corridor.
Ascot United: Hayes, Lock, Masters, Denton, Laflin, D. Bailey, Andrady, Hodges (Davies 64’), Morgan (Davies 64’), Richardson, Higgs (T. Bailey 83’). Subs unused: Jones, Berry