Please enjoy this Match Report by Manager of Ashford FC Ryan Norman as his team took on Wateringbury FC away in the Kent Junior Cup. Both teams play in Division Two Central and East of the Kent County Leagues where Ashford sit 7th with Wateringbury in 1st.
I don’t really know where to start in writing this report as this game had absolutely everything and I can’t imagine anyone who came and watched this fixture not coming away from it with the thinking that they had just witnessed two very well matched teams go at it for 120 minutes and probably won’t see many better games this season.
We arrived at Kings Hill in good spirits. One late change to the squad saw Tom Wilkes included as Liam Whiting pulled out with illness. Myself and assistant Graham had a wonder to check the pitch out whilst the boys paid their fines and we came upon a lovely playing surface that clearly gets looked after.
We headed back and gave the team our instructions. As expected there were disappointed faces in our dressing room which I knew would be followed by conversations with certain players. If I’m honest, I would have concerns if my subs didn’t want to chat about my decisions as everyone should be wanting to play their part and push to be in mine and Graham’s starting 11. We lined up in a 4-2-1-3 formation.
The warm up was lively, we all got together for our last chat and we set up on the pitch ready to go. It was clear that we were up for this and wanted to get on the front foot straight away and not let Wateringbury settle.
The first 20 minutes were probably the best ive seen us start a game this season. We hurried and hassled Wateringbury for every ball, we made every 50-50 and cleared up most of the second balls. We were rewarded in this period when wide right attacking mid Casper put us 1-0 up. After 20 mins we lost young left back Layton who was on the receiving end of a high boot and had a nasty gash on his face. A yellow card was given to the opposition player who on another day with a different ref could of seen red. I felt for Layton as hes been out of the scene for a while due to work. He started the game superbly winning all his tackles and headers and I was sorry to see him come off but his health came first. Casper moved to left back and Josh Jones came on in AMR. After around 25-30 minutes I started to see signs of the winter break. Our levels dropped slightly and we allowed Wateringbury back into it. Their clever striker who was a handful all game nipped in between the centre backs and finished well with 5-10 minutes to play before the half ended.
Half time arrived and our teamtalk was positive. I continued to drum into the boys that this Wateringbury side were beatable but that needed to stay calm, keep our shape and look after the ball in the right areas.
Second half followed a similar pattern. We started well, not letting Wateringbury settle into any sort of rhythm and were again rewarded when Casper put us in front again once more. We looked dangerous from every set piece to be fair with chances falling to several other of my players over the course of the game. Subs were made to freshen it up as legs became tired but we continued to keep Wateringbury at bay whilst having chances of our own. With 5 minutes left of play, Wateringbury strung together around 6 passes without my side making or even attempting a tackle (probably the first time all game that happened) it ended up with their right winger who put in a dangerous ball which was finished from 2 yards out. 2-2 with only a few minutes left to play. Game ended and into extra time we went.
With only a minute or two to chat I reiterated that this game could be won in extra time but we needed to get the first goal and show our greater levels of fitness. Into extra time we went and clearly both sides wanted to win. Every player on that pitch gave it everything they had and it was pleasing to see. We made it 3-2 when Casper once more was in the right place at the right time to put the ball in the back of the net and complete his hattrick. I changed formation now to a solid 4-5-1. We saw the game till ht of extra time. Our instructions for the boys now were to use their time wisely, and to play to the corners using our pace on the wings. The boys executed this superbly and we saw out the game 3-2 winners with one extremely happy manager and assistant and chairman all celebrating the boys achievement.
I generally don’t think my players could of gave me any more than what they did yesterday. Their effort and fitness was on a different level.
For us to go and beat the current league leaders on their own patch is something not many will be able to achieve. My boys set a benchmark for themselves yesterday and I generally believe that if they apply themselves as they did yesterday to all of their remaining games there will not be many sides who take points from us. We are now into the Quarter Finals of this comp I believe and I have no doubt we have the ability to go all the way.
As mentioned there were plenty of shouts for MOM. Wallis and Scobie were superb at CB, George at right back had another solid game. Swanny worker his absolute socks along with Cowell and Wilkes and Forster just did not stop running for the entirety of the game. The MOM will go to Casper though for his hatrick and showing his ability to adapt. He started the game as an AMR and finished it as a LB. Proving to be a really good addition to this side.
Thank you to all who came and watched. I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did. What a game of football !
Credit for the Photographs to Lee Woodcock. View more of his work at his excellent website here
Follow the fortunes of Ashford FC and read more reports from the manager by following their official Twitter @Ashford_FC2016
If you want me to feature a match report from your Non League Club in a similar way to this, feel free to send me the link via @NKentNonLeague
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