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Lowly Ashford United pulled off one of the shock results of the season by beating promotion challengers Cray Wanderers 2-1, at a sunny but bitterly cold Homelands on the last Saturday of February.
United had collected just two points since the Wands thumped nine past them in mid January, but a brace from Daniel Ajakaiye was enough to turn the form book on its head.
The diminutive debutant gave United the best possible start, when he held off his marker to fire home the opening goal in just the sixth minute of the match.
After the early lead, the visitors enjoyed the majority of the play with the hosts grateful to George Kamurasi when he denied Charlie Macdonald after 15 minutes before the rebound was poked wide by Brandon Scott. Pat Kingwell and recent acquisition Jahmal Howlett-Mundle were outstanding at the heart of the defence and were alert to frequently frustrate the Wands.
The visitors also failed to make the most of a number of corner-kicks, whilst Michael Freiter was wasteful with two free-kick opportunities during the opening 45 minutes as the hosts held firm.
The Wands started the second-half brightly with Dean Carpenter firing over the crossbar, before Freiter once again lost his radar with a wayward free-kick which sailed wide of the target.
But 11 minutes into the second period the equaliser came after the dangerous Aaron Rhule picked out Scott, whose left foot strike found the bottom left hand corner of the goal.
United responded when another debutant Sid Sollis was picked out by a well delivered free-kick from George McLennan, only to shoot beyond the goal.
George Kamurasi was alert to thwart a mazy run into the box by Scott as the Wands pressurised, then the Ashford keeper denied the head of Mitchell Nelson by palming the ball out a corner. Mclennan was on hand to block a long-range effort, whilst Dave Cook got in the way of a shot by Scott.
It was all hands to the pump for the hosts as Cray won a succession of corner-kicks, but United were holding firm and were determined not to be breached.
Then four minutes from time against the run of play Ashford produced a real smash and grab moment when on the breakaway, Dean Grant picked out Ajakaiye who calmly slotted home from the edge of the box.
There was still time however for Ajakaiye to be denied his hat-trick by Nick Blue, whilst at the other end Kamurasi pulled off a diving save to prevent Karl Dent from equalising in stoppage time.
George Kamurasi Ola Williams (off 81) George McLennan Will Thomas Jahmal Howlett-Mundle Pat Kingwell Jordan Johnson-Palmer Dave Cook Dean Grant Sid Sollis (off 73) Daniel Ajakaiye
Matt Day * (on 73) Brandon Williams Aaron Lee-Wharton Clark Woodcock * (on 81)
Nick Blue Ben Mundele Barney Williams Jay Leader Mitchell Nelson Zak Henry Dean Carpenter Michael Frieter (off 83) Charlie MacDonald (off 76) Aaron Rhule (off 76) Brandon Scott
Michael Power * (on 76) Junior Dadson * (on 76) Karl Dent * (on 83) Marcus Evans Joe Vines
Big game at Homelands this weekend
We host our first midweek league game of the season when we welcome The Brickies!
Well done to our Kent Youth League side!
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