Report by Rod Hadley:
Liam Ralphs well placed free kick puts Ashton two up
Phil Starbuck kept his players in the dressing room for over an hour after the home defeat by Ashton United who prior to the game were in danger of being pulled into the relegation dogfight.
After a four game unbeaten run the confidence was high for the game against a side who had been beaten 3-1 in a League Cup game earlier in the season.
In the first minute of the game after Ashton’s Ian Fitzpatrick had been ruled offside Paul Evans hit a long free kick up field for Ross Dyer to head the ball to Rob Davies who from the edge of the box volleyed a shot high over Damien Rooney’s crossbar.
Early in the game Ashton went close when a move obviously practised on the training ground nearly paid off. Steve Garvey placed his free kick straight to Ian Fitzpatrick who was open on the left of the Pitmen’s penalty area but his goal-bound shot was blocked by a diving Ben Brown who conceded a corner in the process.
After David Brown won possession just inside his own half the young winger released the ball to Wayne Dyer who in turn played a forward pass for Alan Nagington who then made a 30 yard attacking run only to lose possession on the edge of the penalty area.
The home crowd came to life in the 15th minute when Fitzpatrick who was clearly standing in an offside position was allowed to continue make a 20 yard run towards the Pitmen’s goal before the assistant finally raised his flag.
The Pitmen’s Dan McLeod conceded a foul just outside the left hand side of the penalty area. Ben Smith hit the free kick through a crowd of players forcing Paul Evans to make a save low down, pushing the ball round the post. The resulting corner went straight across the six yard box and was missed by defenders and attackers alike and was only cleared on the opposite side by Ben Brown.
Rob Davies caused temperatures to be raised in the 35th minute when he escaped with a caution for a two footed challenge. After the challenge on the half way line Ashton’s players charged into Davies who was still lying injured on the floor and after consulting his Assistants the Referee only showed the Pitmen midfielder a yellow card. Liam Ralph’s free kick was easily taken by Paul Evans.
Steve Howey Ashton’s Captain went close with a header from a well taken corner kick from Steve Garvey then Ian Fitzpatrick pulled a shot well wide of Evans’s left hand post. Evans was in action soon after diving to his right to grab hold of a header from Fitzpatrick.
The visitors who had been on top for most of the first half nearly went into the half time break a couple of goals down when in added on time Chad Sheppard pulled a shot well wide with the goal at his mercy then from a Ross Dyer headed pass Alan Nagington attempted a lob over Damien Rooney which crashed back into play off the crossbar.
At the start of the second half Wayne Dyer who starts a two match ban next weekend was spoken to by the Referee after a heavy challenge on Ben Smith. Dyer was then foiled twice in the 51st minute by defenders in the six yard box blocking his shots. During a frantic minute of activity in the visitors penalty area David Brown also had a shot blocked.
Ashton took a deserved lead in the 53rd minute when Paul Robinson lost a challenge with Ben Deegan inside the penalty area, the ball span out to Nathan Wharton who unmarked hit a firm shot past Evans into the right hand side of the net.
On the hour mark Chad Sheppard was replaced by Mario Pedro who within minutes was trying his luck with a long range shot which went over the Ashton crossbar. Ashton’s Matty O’Neill was cautioned in the 66th minute for a late tackle on Ross Dyer by the left hand touchline.
Pedro continued to find an opening; he started another move then played a one-two with Wayne Dyer before hitting a 25 yard shot which sailed just over the crossbar. The move was Wayne Dyers last contribution to the game as he was soon replaced by Anthony Maguire and then Morgan Hurley came on for his home debut replacing Daniel McLeod.
In the 71st minute Tom Marshall was cautioned for a foul on Deegan and from the resulting free kick Liam Ralph hit a 25 yard free kick past Evans to extend the visitors lead.
Ross Dyer standing with his back to goal inside the right hand side of the Ashton penalty area brought down a Paul Robinson pass and quickly turned to hit a shot just wide of the left hand post.
Ashton sent on Ian Bennett for Deegan in the 76th minute and two minutes later he was cautioned for a high tackle on Tom Marshall. Pedro had an effort from the edge of the penalty area blocked and with it went any chance of the Pitmen pulling a goal back.
Late in the game Colin McAllister replaced the lively Ian Fitzpatrick.