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18/3/17 AFC Croydon Athletic Drew 3-3

Match Report by Kevin Hall posted on 19th March 2017

Title hopes suffer again after six goal thriller at the Homelands

Match Stats

Date: Sat 18 Mar 2017

Kick Off: 3.00pm

Match Type: Southern Counties East Football League

Venue: Homelands

Score (FT): 3-3

Score (HT): 1-1

Goalscorers (Ashford): Ryan Palmer (15), Rory Hill (68), Shaun Welford (89)

Goalscorers (Croydon Athletic): Warren Mfula (10, 85), Jack Higgins (58)

Referee: Joe Stokes

Assistants: Danny Roberts & Gerry Annandale

Bookings:

Ashford:
Yellow Cards: Jason Goodchild (43), Ben Davisson (45+5), Rory Hill (64)

Red Cards: None

Croydon Athletic:
Yellow Cards: Morgan Jenden (34), Carlton Murray-Price (39), Nuham Green (49)

Red Cards: None

Teams:

Ashford United

George Kamurasi
George Savage (off 86)
Frazer Walker (off 45+4)
Richard Avery
Joe Vines
Pat Kingwell
Ryan Palmer
Ben Davisson
Shaun Welford
Jason Goodchild
Rory Hill



Substitutes

Luke Eldridge (on 45+4)
Brett Ince
Adrian Stone (on 86)
David Botterill
Aaron Lee-Wharton (gk)

Croydon Athletic

Daniel Burnett
Ibrahim Kallon
Nuham Green
Larry Boeteng (off 46)
Jack Higgins
Ben Rayner
Chevan Xavier (off 86)
Morgan Jenden
Warren Mfula
Carlton Murray-Price
James Fray



Substitutes

Ryan Smith (on 86)
William Heavey (on 46)
Jaydan Thomas-Willis
Kristian Mole (gk)

Attendance: 244

Ashford United came from behind three times to gain a point in a thrilling 3-3 draw at home to AFC Croydon Athletic as the two sides ended all-square for the second time this season.

Having slipped to defeat last week at Bearsted, the result was another big blow to their Isthmian League aspirations which are now reliant on Crowborough Athletic dropping points in the title race run-in.

Much like the corresponding game last season, the match was a fast-paced and open game with chances aplenty for both Ashford & AFC Croydon. It was of course the Rams who won that match last term after coming back from 0-2 down to win 4-3, so the Nuts & Bolts were well aware of the threat they possess.

So having seen Chevan Xavier fire narrowly past the post, it was indeed the visitors who struck the first blow in the 10th minute, when prolific Warren Mfula tip-toed his way into the box to slot home his 40th goal of the season.

The Nuts & Bolts responded well with Ryan Palmer skipping past two defenders, but his shot was comfortably caught by Daniel Burnett.

Burnett though could do little about the Ashford equaliser from Palmer after 15 minutes who rifled home from seven-yards – to reach double figures – a knock down from Shaun Welford, from a well worked free-kick routine, following a foul on the outstanding Jason Goodchild.

James Fray then set up Mfula, but this time his on-target shot lacked any real power, Palmer then worked goalie Burnett twice in quick succession. Ashford then missed a golden chance as home debutant Joe Vines somehow contrived to hook the ball over the crossbar from barely two yards out.

The experienced Vines- who linked up well with Pat Kingwell – has however been signed for his defensive prowess and was on hand to clear up after Mfula had set off in pursuit of goal as the Rams looked for a second.

Palmer then beat the offside trap and looked certain to score, the net rippled but it was only the side netting that did so after his shot had clipped the outside of the post.

The first-half seemed to peter out after that and play became a bit disjointed, with both sides picking up a couple of bookings apiece, although Morgan Jenden drew a good save from George Kamurasi .

For the Rams Jenden, – with his constant whinging – was the first to see yellow after 34 minutes, joined five minutes later in the book by Carlton Murray-Price. Goodchild and Davisson the recipients in the notebook for the hosts, with Davisson’s coming as late as the fifth minute of injury time, just moments after Frazer Walker had limped off to be replaced by Luke Eldridge.

Early in the second period, Palmer teed up Welford with a great cross, but the top-scorer blazed his volley into the car park rather than the roof of the net.

Kamurasi pushed the ball past the post with a good save to deny Mfula after an error from debutant Richard Avery had lead to the chance.

But from the resultant corner-kick, the visitors then re-took the lead through Jack Higgins on 58 minutes who fired into the roof of the net after Ashford had failed to clear their lines.

Straight from the re-start Ashford attacked and Rory Hill headed towards goal and appeared to be up-ended but the home protests were waved away by referee Joe Stokes, Hill was then shown a yellow-card in the 64th minute.

Hill though finished off a good move by slotting home his 19th for the season after the opportunity had arisen through good play by Palmer and Eldridge. It was a milestone strike as not only did the goal once again restore parity, but it was the 500th League goal scored by United in this their sixth season.

In such an open game more goals always looked on the cards, Kingwell producing a timely block to thwart Murray-Price before Mfula tumbled over, whilst for the hosts Hill whizzed down the wing to set up a chance for Ashford.

Kamurasi then dived bravely at the feet of the dangerous Mfula to prevent a third for the Athletic, who then saw their Manager Kevin Rayner sent to the stands. I am however not aware if this is the same player who made 216 league appearances for Ashford Town in the mid to late 1980’s or simply a namesake.

Still the goal opportunities arose as Eldridge headed wide from close-range, Vines then produced a quite brilliant tackle on Mfula, before Hill shot inches past the post.

But with five minutes of normal time remaining, Mfula blasted home off the crossbar for his 41st of the season, as Ashford again went behind and conceded three goals for the first time this season.

The Nuts & Bolts surged forward and threw the proverbial kitchen sink at their opponents in search of a reply and in the 89th minute drew level when Welford rose to head home for his 37th of the season.

This caused much delighted amongst a fellow supporter who had 89 minutes on the golden goal ticket, but with the PA not audible on the far side of the ground was told incorrectly that it wasn’t the timing of the goal.

Your trusty match reporters stop watch when the goal went in read 88 minutes and 15 seconds and as goal timings are classed as the minute you are playing, we were indeed in the 89th minute of the game, after all the first minute is from 0-60 seconds, so subsequent minutes are likewise – simples!

Anyway back to the game and in stoppage time Ashford could have easily have sneaked a winner as twice Hill was denied by brilliant saves from the assured Burnett, before blasting over the crossbar.

In the end though it finished at 3-3, which was a great game for the neutral and a good advert for non-league football but ultimately not the result Ashford wanted.

It once again looks like United will finish as runners-up in the table for a third time, but maybe just maybe Crowborough might slip up in the last few weeks.

There was another decent attendance at the Homelands of 244, which was greater than several in the next level, including all 11 matches in the Isthmian (Ryman) North.

Next up for the Nuts & Bolts is a home game on Tuesday against Hollands & Blair, followed by a visit to Sevenoaks Town on Saturday, before the Homelands meeting with the Oaks for a second time in four days in the second leg of the league challenge cup semi-final.