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Ashford Town 2-1 Kingstonian

Coming off the back of three consecutive league wins, including a particularly impressive performance at Burgess Hill just three days ago, K's might have been expected to also take three points off Ryman One's basement side Ashford Town. Of course, the Beautiful Game is rarely that simple and despite playing the more attractive and impressive football, K's slumped to a 2-1 defeat. The blame was partially theirs and partially that of the officials but the net result was a night of immense frustration for K's and a night of joy for the bizarrely nicknamed 'Nuts and Bolts.'

The Homelands

K's made three changes to Saturday's side - Ian Dickens came into midfield for Martyn Lee while up front Paul Vines and new signing Mark Watson replaced Kenny Ojukwa (who missed the team coach and lined up on the subs bench) and Damien Panter (released by the club). Ian McDonald also chose to swap Richard Taylor and Stuart Reeks with the latter moving to left-back and the former occupying a central berth alongside Julian Sills.

K's made a bright start when Bashiru Alimi played Scott Corbett in on goal. The midfielder tried to round goalkeeper Sean Glover but Glover got a touch to the ball and it ricocheted back off Corbett and harmlessly out of play. On eight minutes Mazin Ahmad led a K's counter-attack and teed up Julian Sills in an unfamiliar position one on one with the 'keeper. His touch deserted him but he got the ball out to Vines who had a great chance from the corner of the penalty box but pulled the ball tamely wide.

Watson, who played for K's in pre-season before joining Worthing, was proving a handful for Ashford and on ten minutes his strength enabled him to make something of a nothing situation and tee up Reeks. The makeshift left-backs' twenty-five yard drive caught a deflection and went narrowly wide.

K's were well in control of the game although Chuck Martini drew collective gasps from the travelling fans when he dropped a corner. Luckily the goalkeeper quickly atoned for his error and K's continued to attack although Glover easily saved Alimi's twenty-yarder.

Glover's biggest weakness was his kicking and on nineteen minutes it got Ashford into trouble with the first of two highly controversial moments. After his kick went to Vines the ex-Beckenham striker played Watson straight in on goal. As he prepared to release his shot in a one-on-one situation, running directly towards goal, Tom Adlington grabbed his shirt and hauled him to the ground on the D of the penalty box. Referee Andy Legg correctly gave a free kick but after consulting with his assistant he inexplicably allowed Adlington to stay on the pitch by brandishing only a yellow card.

On twenty-six minutes Corbett picked out Vines with a fantastic ball and he rounded Glover only for Lynvall Duncan to recover and dispossess him before he could finish the move. Ahmad fired over from twenty-five yards and then on the half-hour mark came the sucker-punch that K's fans dreaded. An overhit through ball cannoned awkwardly off Richard Taylor and fell perfectly for Shaun Bradshaw. He confidently blasted the ball past Martini to put Ashford a goal ahead. The last fifteen minutes of the half saw K's growing increasingly frustrated and their chances were limited to a trifecta of Ahmad longshots, none of which forced Glover into action.

In the second half Ashford seemed content to play a counter-attacking game and it almost worked for them early on. A flowing move gave Richard Boorman a good chance from a fairly tight angle but he fired wide of the target. Another good move set up Solomon Henry but he too was unable to test Martini.

K's begun to take control of the game though and threw everything they could muster at the Kent side. A low cross from Reeks only narrowly evaded Vines at the far post and then Vines came close with a volley from a long Richard Taylor throw. It was to be Vines' last touch before he was replaced by Ojukwa in a move that almost reaped immediate dividends. A mighty goal kick from Martini was flicked on by the substitute striker into the path of Watson. Faced with a one-on-one situation though, Glover stood up well to deny the ex-Sutton man a goal on his debut.

Alimi rode a flying late challenge to set up Ojukwa at an awkward angle a minute later but Glover saved smartly at the near post. Bradshaw headed a cross over but it was only a brief respite for the home side in the face of a barrage of Kingstonian pressure. A free kick on the half way line, taken by Martini, was headed goalwards by Corbett but again Glover was equal to it, diving to his left and claiming the ball.

Corbett came close once more on seventy minutes breaking through the Town lines and firing across goal but Glover tipped it to safety at full stretch. Substitute Mark Rhodes knocked the ball back to Reeks who was scythed down as he played Ahmad in on goal. Sadly for K's, Legg declined to allow Ahmad time to see if an advantage could be played and blew the whistle immediately for a free kick. Ahmad curled the set piece neatly around the four man wall but Glover again parried the ball away.

In the seventy-eighth minute the much deserved breakthrough finally came. Another massive Taylor throw was headed upwards by Ojukwa. Ahmad charged towards the ball looking to power it home but mishit it into the ground. It bounced through to Corbett though who stooped to divert it past Glover with his head and level the scores.

K's remained well on top and sought a winner but eight minutes from time they fell foul of the official again. Another Martini free kick caused havoc in the Ashford box and the ball was headed into the six yard box where Ojukwa stood in front of Glover. Glover tried to punch the ball clear but got only a forearm on the ball. It rebounded back off Ojukwa into the net to seemingly gave K's the lead but Legg decided that Ojukwa had infringed and instead awarded Ashford a free kick.

Ojukwa headed narrowly wide at the far post after a useful run and cross by Ahmad but with four minutes of normal time remaining another Ashford counter-attack saw them take all three points after they won a free kick twenty-five yards out. Boorman hit the ball with immense power and Martini did well to fly to his right and block the effort. The goalkeeper trumped his own save of the match two seconds later by acrobatically reacting to deny Bradshaw on the rebound. However, the ball once more fell to a man in a green shirt rather than a hooped one and after a brief scramble Town were third time lucky with Denver Birmingham popping up to slam the ball home from the midst of the melee.

K's threw men forward leaving themselves exposed at the back and after Boorman crossed for Bradshaw, Martini once more showed why he is such an asset to K's with another fantastic block from a powerful shot. In a long period of injury time K's kept the pressure up with an abundance of corners and long throws but were unable to break Ashford down again. The best chance came after a Taylor throw produced another scramble in the area but just as it appeared Corbett would be able to slam the ball home from two yards out, the prone Glover flung his leg across and hooked the ball out for a corner.

It was destined not to be Kingstonian's day and they were left to rue a massive missed opportunity and slid out of the playoff positions. Ashford's game plan was to counter-attack, it served them well and for that they deserve credit. K's can take the consolation that they played well and deserved to win but as they know that is not always enough. While bad refereeing is unavoidable in the Ryman League (and Legg was certainly erroneous both in not dismissing Adlington and in ruling out Ojukwa's goal) the goals K's conceded were not. Martini will be particularly disappointed that after keeping his side in the game with two fantastic saves in succession none of his team-mates were able to help him out by clearing the ball and instead Ashford grabbed a winner. K's now have to take the positives out of this game and get back to winning ways next week against Metropolitan Police.

Tue 20th Sep 2005
The Homelands
Isthmian League Division One
Ashford Town2
1Chuck Martini
2Scott Bennetts
3Richard Taylor
4Scott CorbettCautioned
5Julian SillsCautioned
6Stuart Reeks
7Mazin Ahmad
8Bashiru AlimiCautioned
9Paul Vines15
10Mark Watson
11Ian Dickens16
12Tony Reid
14Michael Brady
15Kenny Ojukwa9
16Mark Rhodes11
17Jon Ashwood
Match Report By
Simon Grier