Ashford gain revenge for FA Trophy defeat

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Hastings United vs Ashford United – Isthmian League

Ashford United scored three goals in the final 20 minutes to inflict a rare home defeat on Hastings United and gain revenge for their recent FA Trophy defeat. The ‘U’s took the lead on the stroke of half-time when Lanre Azeez fired home Sam Hasler’s enticing cross and were still leading when the clock ticked past 70 minutes. Ashford, who had upped the tempo in the second-half, equalised through Tariq Ossai’s splendid curling shot and took the lead ten minutes later with a header from Tashi-Jay Kwayie. United pushed men forward seeking their own equaliser and were caught on the break in the last moments of added time when Roberto Ratti sprang from halfway to drill under Louis Rogers.

Tuesday 26th October, a 7:45pm kick-off on a mild evening being ruined by some pesky showers though these are not dissuading the arrival of supporters and there is a healthy crowd filling the ground. The pitch looks in good condition. Gary Elphick returns to the starting line-up for the ‘U’s with Kane Penn continuing at right-back for the injured Marcus Goldsmith. United sport their claret shirts with white shorts and socks while Ashford are in their yellow shirts and socks with green shorts.

Ashford get proceedings underway and also conjure the first half-chance after five minutes. A long throw into the area bounces in the six-yard box but the shot on the turn is mis-hit and Rogers is able to save. The opening 15 minutes is an even battle in midfield but with both defences on top against their opponent’s front-line.

United then start to get to grips with the conditions. A move involving Azeez, Dave Martin and Sam Adams allows the latter to strike a remarkable 50-yard cross-field pass from left to right, directly into the path of Hasler who hammers in a shot from the angle. It surprises everyone including the goalkeeper who somehow manages to lift his arms and parry the ball for a corner.

A few minutes later a Kenny Pogue flick-on gives Adams a sight of goal inside the area only for Ossai to nick the ball off his toe before he can shoot. An Ashford header follows but this lacks power and is easily saved before Pogue attempts an ambitious lob from 30 yards which drifts wide.

As we head toward the half-hour United break following an Ashford corner. Adams and Hasler are at the heart of the move before Martin’s cross is met by the head of Azeez at the far post but his header is off target and flies across the face of the goal instead. Moments later another chance. Azeez heavily involved before teeing up Pogue for a shot over the bar.

With half-time approaching the home side continue to build up a head of steam. And though the good news is the showers have ceased, the bad news is it is now raining proper.

Pogue heads onto Hasler who is hauled down by a tug of the shirt some 25 yards out. The offender escapes a booking and Hasler takes the free-kick himself with his shot flying a foot over the bar. Less than 60 seconds pass and Ashford unceremoniously haul Hasler to the ground again, and this time the yellow card is brandished for Josh Wisson.

Hasler is having a big influence on the game, setting the tempo and eager to do well against his former team. We are into the final minute of added time in the first-half when Hasler finds himself wide on the left. It looks like there is nothing on but Hasler has other ideas, he strikes a stunning low pass some 30 yards to the edge of the 6-yard box straight into the path of the arriving Azeez to thump home the opening goal.

Half-time: Hastings United 1 – 0 Ashford United

United are in charge of the restart and are on the offensive immediately. Jack Dixon wins a tackle in midfield and releases Martin down the left, his initial cross is blocked but he retains possession and gives Hasler the chance to cross himself. The ball into the area has pace, it has bend but it’s actually too good and no-one can get on the end of it.

On 52 minutes Ashford almost have an equaliser. A corner from the right is cleared to the left wing which is crossed deep for an arriving Ashford player who flashes a shot across the face of goal and inches wide. United’s next chance falls to the prominent Hasler who latches onto a Pogue header but shoots wide from 20 yards.

Ashford are certainly not sitting back, the onus is on them of course as the ‘U’s have their noses in front, and United look content with hitting the visitors on the break. This approach works fine until we head into the final 20 minutes when Ashford send over a cross from the right, it is only half cleared and Ratti is able to tee-up Ossai on the right edge of the area. He has a crowd in front of him but curls a beauty into the top left hand corner giving Rogers no chance. The ball may well have hit the underside of the bar on its way in.

United make a double-substitution but Ashford sense they may get more out of the game and keep pressing. With less than 10 minutes remaining and a throw-in on the right, they catch United out. Everyone is expecting a long throw into the area, instead it goes short and the resulting cross to the far post is headed down and in by Kwayie.

The boot is now firmly on the other foot and it is the ‘U’s who are pushing forward. Hasler and Tom Chalmers both trick their way into the area but are thwarted by last ditch tackles. A United corner then causes a melee in the box and there are bodies from both teams on the floor, but the decision is a free-kick to Ashford.

There are four minutes of added time for United to salvage something from the game. Alas, it is not to be. Instead, with United players up field it is Ashford’s Ratti who takes advantage, speeding from the halfway line into acres of space before finishing clinically underneath Rogers to seal the three points. Reward for an enterprising second-half performance.

Full-time: Hastings United 1 – 3 Ashford United

Man of the match: Jack Dixon. Involved throughout often breaking up attacks, always available and displayed a wide range of passing.

Through no lack of endeavour, United miss the chance to close the gap on the teams above them and remain sixth in the league table with games in hand. Fair play to Ashford who upped the tempo in the second-half. After the Ramsgate defeat in August the ‘U’s embarked upon an eight-game winning streak, so they have previous for putting defeats firmly behind them.

Hastings United: Rogers, Black, Elphick, Stone, Dixon, Adams [c] (Worrall 76’), Hasler, Penn, Pogue, Azeez (Chalmers 76’), Martin (Hull 82’)

Ashford United: McCarthy, Ossai, Simms, Ovenden, Friend, Steventon, Wisson (Hull 65’), Kwayie, Ter Horst (Diallo 65’), Ratti, Cormack (Burdon 73’)

United goal: Azeez (45’)

Ashford goals: Ossai (71’), Kwayie (81’), Ratti (90’)

Attendance: 1,303

Bob Quinn
Twitter: @BobJQuinn