United U18’s reach Cup Final U18s reach cup final HENDON YOUTH 1 – ASHFORD UNITED YOUTH 2 Lucas Fettes Youth Cup Semi-Final Thursday 4th February 2016 at Homelands Stadium by John Pease. The Ashford United Youth (U18) team fought their way through to the cup final with a spirited win against Hendon. This win came despite the fact that they were outplayed for a major part of the first half. Hendon were the “ home” team for this game which was switched to Homelands. We therefore saw Hendon playing in their usual green shirts with Ashford in a smart yellow and black outfit. I must state from the outset that despite every effort I was unable to piece together the full Hendon side. To make matters worse Hendon, and to a lesser extent Ashford, used squad numbers. For the first fifteen minutes Hendon looked the stronger side creating several chances. These included a very dubious free kick (a sign of things to come) which was hit straight to home keeper Aaron-Lee Wharton who was destined to have a fine game. Slowly but surely Ashford started to get into the game with Clark Woodcock causing problems down the right flank. Their first meaningful shot came in the 22nd minute when Charlie Sharp fired wide from 30 yards. Some of the tackling was a bit spiteful but went unpunished as Hendon increased pressure with some fine flowing football. Their best player at this stage was their number 12, Zak Miles and only a super saving tackle by Mitchell Barrett prevented Ashford going behind. However, this duly happened on 30 minutes when Hendon’s number 3 headed home. Four minutes later Ashford missed a glorious chance when Woodcock broke free but fired a weak shot straight at the Hendon keeper. Still it was Hendon calling the shots with Ashford losing too many 50/50 balls in mid field. On 39 minutes Hendon’s Keagan Cole burst through but was denied by Wharton. It was looking a bit grim for Ashford but suddenly they moved up a gear and scored a fine goal in the 42nd minute. A move down the right flank resulted in Woodcock crossing to Luke Eldridge who finished in style. Suddenly, Hendon looked vulnerable and on the stroke of half time Callum Howland nearly added a second for the lads in yellow. The second period started with Hendon making what appeared to be three substitutions and taking off Zak Miles! Maybe he had picked up a knock. Almost at once Wharton was called into action and made a super save but it was Ashford who struck next. Another move down the right flank saw a reverse of the first goal as this time it was Eldridge who crossed for Woodcock to head home. Hendon hit back and Mitchell Barrett “took one for the team” with a crude tackle that earned him a yellow card. Just after the hour mark Ashford hit the post following a goal mouth scramble as Hendon started to wilt under increasing pressure. But Ashford still needed to be watchful as keeper Wharton again came to the rescue. There then occurred the outrageous incident mentioned at the beginning of this report. On 75 minutes Tom Draper clashed with the Hendon number 15 who, I thought, fouled Draper. However, referee Callum Drysdale ruled against Ashford and gave Draper a yellow card. Worse was to follow. Within a minute manager Jason Whitmore signaled that he wanted to replace Draper. With the ball out of play the lino advised the referee. Draper ran towards the touch line taking off his shirt as he arrived with the intention of going straight into the dressing room. Drysdale decided this was worth another yellow card and the inevitable red one. Thus Ashford were reduced to ten men much to their anger. In fairness it must be stated that the Hendon manager was equally appalled at this decision doubtless fearing that the Ashford lads would be well and truly wound up. He was right as they played out of their skins for the remaining fifteen minutes and very nearly added to their tally by missing two good chances. It was during this period that the maturity of certain players became evident as the likes of Callum Howland cleverly ran down the clock. So ended an entertaining game that ensured that Ashford would meet Staines (who beat Eastbourne 5-3) in the final. This is scheduled to take place at Priestfield Stadium, Gillingham. The Ashford team was as follows:-Aaron-Lee Wharton,Charlie Sharp, Callum Whitmore, Tom Bugden, Tom Draper, Callum Howland, Luke Eldridge (A5 – 69 mins), Harry Lavender, Matt Kirby, Mitchell Barrett, Clark Woodcock (Edward Miller – 60 mins). Subs not used = Frank Godfrey and A.N. Other? M.O.M.? = I have decided to award this jointly to Aaron-Lee Wharton and Callum Howland. Aaron-Lee made several top class saves that kept Ashford in the game. Callum was a tower of strength in the middle of the park and as Hendon wilted he took control and basically ran the game.