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A goal worthy of winning any game saw Ashford to their 11th win on the bounce, when Liam Whiting struck with a sweetly timed volley five minutes from time to stun visitors Erith & Belvedere, in the vital top of the table match at the Homelands.
The match had been hyped up as the battle of the two strikers, in the shape of Alfie May for the visitors and Stuart Zanone of Ashford, in the end though it was Whiting who was to grab the headlines with a finish that either of the two front men would have been proud of.
Indeed the defence of both sides performed so well, particularly Liam Walsh and Pat Kingwell for the Nuts & Bolts that both May & Zanone were pretty much kept at bay throughout. Zanone the closest of the pair to grabbing a goal when he fired against the crossbar from a neat Whiting pass shortly before the winning goal came.
In any other season either of the two sides could easily be top the table, but such is the form of champions elect Phoenix Sports that before kick-off the Deres were six points from top spot, whilst United were a further seven adrift of their visitors.
Shots on target were at a premium such was the dominance in defence of both sides and neither goalkeeper was really troubled into make a save of any note. Home custodian Joe Mant though did perform a party piece when called upon to make a clearance with his head, much to the delight of the home support.
Ashford took the lead on 24 minutes when skipper Gary Clarke reacted quickest after a rasping shot from the outstanding Whiting had been tipped onto the crossbar by George Kamurasi, the alert Clarke on hand to fire home the rebound from close range.
Parity was restored after 37 minutes when Luke May glanced a header from a well taken free-kick past Mant as the visitors being to grow into the contest.
The Deres spurned a number of half-chances, substitute Adam Marsh guilty on at least three occasions, whilst Alfie May also should done better when through on goal.
Despite the lack of clear cut chances it was nevertheless a pulsating encounter, which saw two new signings on dual-registration for the Nuts & Bolts perform well. Michael Yianni put a great shift in throughout the 90 minutes, whilst Jamie Collado who has previously appeared 13 times for United, returned as a half-time substitute and can be pleased with his display.
As the game wore on, Ashford looked the most likely to steal the points, particularly when Gary Mickelborough was introduced in the 77th minute, his pace immediately unsettling the visitors and he soon let rip with a goal bound effort which was met with a timely block.
Then the vital winning goal came when Mickelborough burst down the right-wing to neatly pick out Whiting, whose shot was so powerful that all Kamurasi could do was turn around in silence and pick the ball out of the back of the net, it was the quietest he’d been all evening.
The win means United still remain unbeaten at home, but more importantly four points have been clawed back on the Deres with 11 matches of the season to go, Ashford still of course to meet Phoenix twice.
Match Reporter Kevin Hall
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