Matthew and Harris on target in 2-0 win
Brendan Matthew and Ollie Harris scored a goal in each half as Ascot United edged out local rivals Holyport on Saturday to stay level on points with Burnham.
The Yellamen were wary of a Holyport side who had made themselves difficult to beat under Sam Lock this season – a side who had also already chalked up one win over them in August’s FA Cup Preliminary Round tie – and even when they do lose it is invariably by a single goal.
The smart money would be on Ascot failing to keep a clean sheet and falling behind, before coming back to win by a single goal such was the sides’ respective records, but neither of those came into fruition as the home side retained their joint-top spot.
Ascot named new signing Calam Gallimore in defence – in for the injured Dan Bailey – whereas fellow new signing Alfie Grant joined a fully-used substitutes bench which was littered with attacking options.
As it transpired, The Yellamen were a goal to the good at the break in an enterprising, energetic display that owed much to the wing wizardry of Usman Lalustani and insatiable midfielder Kai Walters.
Only two minutes in and visiting ‘keeper Matteo Giacobbe made the first of a string of fantastic saves when he got down low to tip Matthew’s effort around a post; Lalustani racing onto Jordan Ajanlekoku’s pass before sliding an inviting ball into the box.
Giacobbe then pulled off a world-class save to claw Sean McCormack’s thumping header wide from another Lalustani delivery in the tenth minute, before tipping Walters’ rising long-range effort over four minutes later with Gallimore heading onto the crossbar from the resultant corner.
Ascot were gifted a chance to open the scoring midway through the half when Fabien Etienne handled Walters’ thunderbolt – credit to the referee for spotting the infringement – although Giacobbe rose to the challenge once again by pushing away Matthews’ spot-kick.
But Matthew soon atoned for that miss with a delightful glancing header to make it 1-0 after playing a neat one-two with McCormack on the right wing (celebrations pictured, shooting-stars.co.uk), although ‘Port might have nicked an equaliser on the stroke of half time after Harry Williams broke from an Ascot corner and crossed for Christian Johnson, whose deflected shot squirmed wide but could have gone anywhere.
After an early chance for Matthew, much of the second half the game had a different complexion with Ascot sitting back, chances at a premium, and disjoint following a medical emergency on the sidelines.
Fortunately, all of the above ended positively, as the Yellamen re-asserted themselves and after Ajanlekoku’s header was easily saved, substitute Keaton August struck the foot of a post and fellow substitute Marcus Mealing screwed wide in the midst of a goalmouth melee.
But following a heart-in-mouth moment when Holyport substitute Dan Wilson spun and screwed wide with two minutes of regulation time remaining, both sides were reduced to ten men when Kritpac Dzimbo reacted to Mealing’s two-footed challenge; both seeing red.
And, the game was all over in the seventh minute of stoppage time when Dan Price pressed an error out of the home defence, allowing Harris to skip clear and clip the ball over Giacobbe to make it 2-0.
The Yellamen are in league cup action on Tuesday before next weekend’s top-of-the table clash.
Ascot United: Ashdown, Lock, Masters, Ajanlekoko, Bouwers, Gallimore (A. Grant 63’), McCormack (Harris 57’), H. Grant, Matthew (Price 68’), Walters (August 68’), Lalustani (Mealing 76’).