Ashford Town (Middx) (3) 4, Guildford City (1) 1
by Barry Underwood
Ashford Town gained what proved to be a routine victory to aid them in what is now a three horse promotion battle. With champions elect Hartley Wintney’s ground not meeting step four requirements it will be one of Ashford, Camberley or Epsom & Ewell who will now snatch the much coveted promotion spot. With Camberley arguably in the driving seat a win today for Ashford was imperative. In truth they couldn’t have made a better start with a goal as early as the second minute which set Guildford City back on their heels. This was in fact another of the recent afternoons when City’s defending left something to be desired. The early goal came when a half clearance was quickly fed to the unmarked Mark Bitmead who played in the equally unmarked Bayley Mummery to slide the ball past the fit again Luke Badiali. After the early goal the game settled somewhat and there were few dramatic moments until the 18th minute when the home side went two goals ahead. A high ball into the right channel was hooked into the box where an unmarked Dan Fleming netted his 26th goal of the season from eight yards. To their credit Guildford quickly hit back when Sanchez Benali swung an excellent free-kick into the danger area where Darren Caesar met it to head superbly into the top corner. There was a chance at this point that the visitors could get back into the game and efforts on goal were exchanged at either end. However Ashford’s third goal on 37 minutes proved to be a killer blow. A deep cross from the left dropped well beyond the back post. That wasn’t a hindrance to Dan Fleming though who volleyed the ball back across goal and inside the far post.
Ashford’s work rate off the ball was notable and on a number of occasions City in possession was forced into errors. Despite this from a long throw on the hour Jack May couldn’t get enough power into a header at the far post, and minutes later the hard working Chad Goulter latched onto May’s flick-on but his ambitious lob dropped over the crossbar. As the game entered the late stages City’s wobbling defence came under severe pressure. Martin Dynan cleared off the line and within minutes both Mummery and Fleming put good opportunities wide of the goal. With ten minutes remaining substitute Shaun Smart gave the increasingly frustrated Matt Anton a shooting opportunity which deflected off a defender and straight into the goalkeeper’s arms. Ashford’s fourth came with two minutes left on the clock and yet another low cross from the right was turned in by the unfortunate Smart for an own goal. There was still time for Luke Badiali to pull off a fine save at his near post, but it was Ashford who march on in their promotion quest, whilst for City the end of the season can’t come fast enough. But then with relegation threatened Chessington and promotion challenging Camberley still to play, Guildford City could yet have a big say in how the season concludes.
Team: Luke Badiali, Tom Booth, James Davies (Shaun Smart 62), Darryl Siaw, Martin Dynan (Chris James-Mason 86), Tarome Hemmings, Sanchez Benali, Chad Goulter, Jack May (Kiyanu Pillay 70), Darren Caesar, Matt Anton. Unused subs: Anass Akhazzan, George Patterson.
Referee: Anand Desai