Tuesday September 11th 2012, Kick off 19:45 at The Robert Parker Stadium, Short Lane, Ashford, Surrey.
Ashford Town (Tangerine/White Shirts /Black shorts) (Middlesex) 3 AET
Dunstable Town (Royal Blue/Royal Blue) 0. 0-0 after 90 minutes.
attendance 116, admission 8 pounds, programme 1 pound.
This was an easy eight mile drive over from my work base in Slough to Ashford Town (Middlesex), but actually in Surrey!
of course avoiding the normally gridlocked M4 and M25) for Game 4 in my 2012-13 FA Cup ‘Path to Wembley’.
The previous Saturday they had drawn 2-2 in an apparently end to end encounter, where Ashford had snatched a draw from the jaws of defeat in injury time to keep themselves still firmly in the Cup.
Dunstable Town are sitting pretty at the top of the South Midlands Premier Division and are rumoured to be one of the better ‘payers’ in the league, and so, probably fancied their chances of a minor cup shock, by beating Ashford from a step up the NL pyramid ladder.
Ashford is a town almost entirely in the Surrey borough of Spelthorne , with a small part falling within Greater London. It is in the historic county of Middlesex. It is a suburban development situated 15 miles (24 km) west south-west of Charing Cross in London and forms part of the London commuter belt. It is often referred to as Ashford, Middlesex to distinguish it from the larger town of Ashford, Kent. Since 1965, when Middlesex County Council was dissolved, it has been part of Surrey and the small London section part of the London Borough of Hounslow. Bobby Davro and Russel Grant were born in Ashford. Driving toward Ashford from Slough one gets a feeling of suburbia hemmed in by many reservoirs, many of which are located in the area, and businesses associated with the fairly nearby Heathrow airport.
Ashford have a set up to appeal to groundhoppers, always a well-kept real ale in their small clubhouse, a white board, well used to display team lineups, and a nice little club shop, that had a good number old footy books to peruse.
They also have one of the better pitches in area, flat and smooth. I sat in the stand with well-known local hoppers Steve Jackson and Steve Jeffrey, chewing the fat over all things NL footy, real ale, the olympics etc, and an interesting game of football played out in front of us.
Dunstable, ‘the Blues’ were sharp, quick, and impressed us. If you’d not known, perhaps you’d have said they played at the step above rather than Ashford. Both hit woodwork in the ninety minutes, and both keepers (Paul McCarthy/Ashford and Lewis Kidd/Dunstable made lovely one handed saves from rasping drives. Clearly neither wanted to lose this game, and the draw of a home fixture versus St Alban’s City in the next round was clearly a carrot.
As the second half wore on, as is the want with hoppers, we started to worry about the dreaded 0-0, and extra time, always to be avoided on an evening match. For me, because I’d seen a 0-0 only the previous Saturday at Newport, and for SJeff because he was on a long stretch in not having seen one at all, yes we are goal whores. For a ground hopper there is nothing more frustrating that travelling some distance for a one-off tick ground, and ending up with a 0-0, as SJack had apparently seen at Workington FC. However, there is one hopper who is famous for ‘not counting’ the ground if he hasn’t seen a goal there, and will revisit until he sees one before striking it from his list.
There is a northern English expression. ‘Nowt as strange as folk’, in this case I’d say that does apply!
Anyway, we all have our foibles, each to their own etc.
As extra time approached and still we had stalemate, we started to pontificate about past games seen, where teams slog it out for 90 plus minutes, without being able to break the deadlock, before someone then pops up in the 1st or 2nd minute of extra time to score, and how often this scenario actually happens!
So, you guessed it, in the 93rd minute, DT keeper Kid makes a rash challenge, penalty! Ironic, seeing as were already contemplating deciding penalties after 120 mins. Mark Bitmead stepped up and took a very assured kick to bury the ball in the back of the net, 1-0, at last, phew! At this stage Dunstable could feel a little aggrieved, as they had shaded the game over 90 minutes of football, and had impressed us. Eight minutes later, time another clear foul in the area, by an outfield player this time. And Bitmead repeated his trick from the penalty spot, 2-0, game over.
At this point, we started to get excited (yes really), about the prospect of Mark Bitmead scoring a hat trick of penalties, which we agreed none of us had seen before. Of course what happens, the spoil sport manager substitutes him! It was only left for Dan Brown to hit a good fifteen yard strike into the bottom corner in the 112th minute, to finish the game at 3-0, a highly flattering scoreline, although Ashford did dominate the extra time period. I shall a keen eye on what happens in the next round v St Albans and if Dunstable achieve promotion this season.