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Danny Parish was the star of the show scoring twice as Ashford United easily completed a league double over Kent rivals Ramsgate winning by a 3-0 margin at a breezy Homelands. All the goals came in the second-half as the hosts maintained their bid to stage a home play-off match as the season draws to a close.
The first-half however was a low-key affair, with Ashford unable to hit the target as Parish, Sam Hasler, Jerald Aboagye and Sam Corne all spurned good opportunities when well placed.
The Rams who lie in mid-table were solid in defence throughout the opening 45 minutes but offered little going forward with United keeper Sam Mott virtually a spectator throughout the afternoon.
Ashford played into the wind during the second-half and duly opened the scoring when Parish powered the ball into the top right-hand corner on 53 minutes, after latching onto a neat pass from Trey Williams.
Josh Wisson and Bode Anidugbe saw shots blocked in a passage of play where the ball flew around the Visitors box like a pinball machine. Ashford crafted numerous openings, but in Luke Watkins found a goalkeeper in good form, particularly when he dived bravely at the feet of Parish to thwart the lively striker.
Substitute Clark Woodcock – who has made more career appearances (40) from the bench than any other United player – took one touch too many as Watkins again prevented a second goal.
In a rare soiree forward the Rams won a free-kick just outside the box, but former Ashford player Charlie Dickens effort was most definitely off the radar.
Parish set up Wisson but he fired wide of the target, before the latter then worked the goalkeeper, only to see Watkins pull off a fine diving save.
Then in the 87th minute, the lead was finally doubled when Corne found Parish who looked up to spot the keeper advancing to the edge of the box, before neatly lobbing the ball over his head to take his tally to 16 for the season.
During stoppage time the Rams struck the post from a free-kick after Mott had been yellow carded for an infringement outside the penalty area.
But it was Ashford who had the last word, making it three in the third added minute when Toby Ajala tapped in from close-range in bizarre fashion, after a clearance from Watkins had struck Williams and spun into the path of Ajala towards the goal.
With champions elect Cray Wanderers 16 points ahead of the play-off pack, all that seemingly remains is which two of the next four will finish second and third, but with just three points separating the sides it promises to be an exciting finale.
The Nuts & Bolts keen to continue the momentum are at home again next Saturday 16th March with East Grinstead Town visiting. The hosts will be looking to complete another double having won the away encounter in November 2-1, with that man Parish scoring both goals.
With eight matches remaining, Ashford do though still have to play all three play-off rivals, Horsham, Hastings and Haywards Heath Town as well as runaway leaders Cray Wanderers.
Match Reporter Kevin Hall
Sam Mott Jerald Aboagye Josh Wisson Bode Anidugbe Afolabi Coker Mohamed Kamara (off 90) Sam Corne Toby Ajala Danny Parish Jay May (off 27) Sam Hasler (off 39)
Trey Williams * (on 27) Stefan Cox * (on 90) Kundai Munyama Charlie Wealands (gk) Clark Woodcock * on 39
Luke Watkins Jake Mackenzie Rob Saunders Charlie Dickens George Crimmen Tijan Jadama Tom Chapman Oliver Gray Kane Rowland Rory Smith Mikey Dalton (off 63)
Jack Penny Sam Munday Gil Carvahlo * (on 63)
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