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Tunbridge Wells 19/4/14 Won 1-0

Match Report by Kevin Hall posted on 19th April 2014

Dryden pounces to earn deserved win which guarantees Ashford to finish above Tunbridge Wells after thrilling encounter at the Homelands

Match Stats

Date: Sat 19 Apr 2014

Kick Off: 3.00pm

Match Type: Southern Counties East Football League

Venue: Homelands

Score (FT): 1-0

Score (HT): 0-0

Referee: A Stacchini

Assistants: K Challinger & K Kikulwe

Bookings:

Ashford:
Yellow Cards: None

Red Cards: None

:
Yellow Cards: None

Red Cards: None

Teams: ASHFORD UNITED
1 Jo Mant
2 Luke Cuthbert
3 Liam Whiting
4 Gary Clarke
5 Jordan Miller
6 Ben Jordan (off 88)
7 Tom Scorer (off 62)
8 Adam Cuthbert
9 Gary Mickelborough
10 James Dryden (off 76)
11 Ronnie Dolan

Substitutes (used *)
12 Sam Conlon * (on 62)
14 Michael Smissen
15 Ira Jackson * (on 76)
16 Sam Fisher * (on 88)
17 Dan Scorer

TUNBRIDGE WELLS
1 Chris Oladogba (off 64)
2 Jason Bourne
3 Lewis Mingle
4 Jake Beecroft
5 Scott Whibley
6 Tom Davey
7 Jack Funnell (off 60)
8 Joe Fuller
9 Jon Pilbeam
10 Chris Seenan (off 71)
11 Ian Parsons (off 88)

Substitutes (used *)
12 Elliot Everson
13 Andy Irvine * (on 71)
14 Richard Sinden * (on 60)
15 Michal Czanner (gk)
16 Steve Lawrence (gk) * (on 64)

Attendance: 347

Ashford United bounced back after a disappointing week, to record a 1-0 victory over Tunbridge Wells, which guarantees the side a minimum of runners-up in the Southern Counties East League, a superb achievement in this, their first season in the league.

James Dryden’s close range second-half header, the only goal of the contest, sealed the win, as the Wells were beaten by United for a fourth time during the campaign. It was little more than United deserved from an up beat performance in front of 347 spectators, which saw the gap extend to an unassailable eight points between the two rivals, with just two games remaining.

The bumper attendance, the highest for a league encounter since the formation of United, was also the best seen at the Homelands since 404 witnessed a Stanley Muguo strike aid Ashford Town to a 1-1 draw with Kingstonian on 25 April 2009, the final day of the season 2008-09.

It was a pulsating affair, with both sides giving their all and indeed there was little to choose between them in the opening exchanges, but as the game progressed, particularly in the second period, there could be few observers who would argue that Ashford were good value for the three points.

The first real chance fell to the visitors Jon Pilbeam who latched onto a loose ball in the fifth minute, following a weak back header by Liam Whiting, but Pilbeam lobbed the ball wide of the target, with Jo Mant off his line.

Front men Gary Mickelborough and Dryden though were proving more than a handful for Wells, who were clearly missing crowd favourite Perry Spackman, suspended and thus absent from central defence, as they increasingly struggled to cope with the movement and guile of the pair as the afternoon wore on.

On 27 minutes, the only yellow card of the afternoon was produced when Scott Whibley felled the lively Tom Scorer, but the resultant free-kick saw Whiting’s long range effort deflected out for a corner. Wells responded and were looking dangerous on the counter-attack as Jack Funnell fired a left foot shot wide of the target.

Mickelborough who had already struck five times against the Wells this term, was causing plenty of headaches and a great burst of pace saw him through on goal, only to be denied by the big frame of Chris Oladogba who stood firm. Mickelborough then reacted quickest to latch onto a loose ball following a mix up between goalie and defender, but Oladogba redeemed the situation with a fine save. Clearly enjoying playing against Tunbridge Wells, Mickelborough then produced a breezy run, to dink inside his man but a pulled shot was always going just wide.

Just before half-time, Ian Parsons let fly from long range, but Mant saw the ball sail just over the crossbar and so it remained goalless at the break, it was the closest Wells came to breaking the deadlock.

It was pretty much all Ashford in the second period, as the midfield pairing of Gary Clarke & Adam Cuthbert started to grow into the game and with dual footed Ronnie Dolan enjoying another fine match, the pressure on the visiting goalmouth was immense.Adam Cuthbert almost found the goal from a curled free-kick as Oladogba was left treading water, but his blushes were saved when the ball missed the far post by a matter of inches. Mant was then called into action, pulling off a good stop to thwart the increasingly frustrated Pilbeam following a rare sortie into the Ashford penalty area by the Wells.

The decisive and only goal of the afternoon came on 54 minutes, it was hardly a classic, but they all count and no one wearing green and white was going to complain. Whiting whipped in a neat corner and his delivery saw Mickelbrough and Clarke cause havoc as the ball was then knocked backed to the predatory Dryden who rose to nod home from a few yards out, the ace marksman getting enough purchase on it to take it past a posse of sprawling bodies and over the goal line.

The goal was just the fillip that Ashford needed as they began to pass the ball well and continued to do so throughout the remainder of the match, indeed the pressure on the opposition goal was severe as a succession of corners were won. Such was the dominance that Tunbridge Wells showed little in way of response, although much credit should go to the defence pairing of Jordan Miller and Ben Jordan who were immense and instrumental in preventing the visitors from registering a goal in a league encounter for only the second time this season.

With the luxury of two goalkeeping substitutes on the bench, visiting custodian Oladogba who had taken a knock following a clash with Dryden in the first-half was replaced by Steve Lawrence on 64 minutes.

He was involved almost immediately to tip a fierce shot from substitute Sam Conlon onto the crossbar as Ashford came close to doubling the lead. Again Conlon and man of the match Mickelborough were denied, then Ashford were grateful to Whiting who pulled off the tackle of the match much to the delight of Manager Paul Chambers as Wells constructed a breakaway move.

On 82 minutes a clash of heads saw a lengthy delay as Jordan and Parsons, both saw their afternoon ended, as the pair departed the scene of the incident nearly six minutes later. It was longest of several stoppages and did little for the nerves as the Referee shouted across that there would be 11 minutes of injury time added to the 90 minutes. It did though mean that the visitors having used all three substitutes were forced to play with only 10 men from the remainder of the match.

Despite the lengthy additional time, there were few scares for Ashford, in fact the best chances fell to the home side, with Conlon having an effort blocked, whilst fellow substitute Ira Jackson wasted a free-kick opportunity and then almost produced an opening with a great burst of pace.

Ashford travel to Whyteleafe on Easter Monday, five points behind the leaders, the Leafe though need just one point from their remaining two matches to ensure that they end as champions and gain promotion to the Isthmian League.

Match Reporter Kevin Hall