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Northwood 2  Ashford Town 1

Saturday 21st January 2012

  • Line-ups
  • Match Report
  • Photos

Northwood
EvoStik Southern League
Chestnut Avenue, Northwood
Ashford Town
Mitch Swain
1
Kick Off
1
Paul McCarthy
Scott Raper
2
3.00 p.m.
2
Harry Knock
Ronayne Marsh-Brown
3
Attendance
3
Takahiro Kirihara
Lee Grant
4
125
4
Russell Canderton
Reece Yorke
5
H/T
5
Bairoh Conteh
James McCluskey
6
0-1
6
Jim Mann
Jonathan Constant
7
Scorers
7
Mark Bitmead
Craig White
8
Northwood
8
Ashley Lodge
Oliver Hawkins
9
Hawkins 51, White 82
9
Dan Brown
Ben Alexander
10
Ashford
10
Kofi Lockhart-Adams
Romaine Walker
11
Brown 31
11
Ed Thomas
   Substitutes
Bookings
Substitutes
Liam Fowler
12
Northwood
12
Pietro Palladino
Rob Ursell (10, 46m)
14
n/a
14
Josh Andrew (10, 91m)
Kyle Matthews (7, 94m)
15
Ashford
15
Perry Luckins
Kurt Morlese
16
n/a
16
Jack Mullan (7, 72m)
James Reading
17
 
17
Paul Burgess
 
 
RIVERSIDE MAN OF THE MATCH:
xxx
 
 
Referee: Mr Constantine Hatzidakis

Assistants: Mr Vincenzo Torre
& Mr George Key



Northwood registered a long overdue first win of 2012 with a hard fought, come from behind 2-1 victory over a spirited Ashford side. After throwing away a 1-0 and 3-1 lead last weekend (eventually drawing 3-3), the hosts looked to make amends. Gary Meakin made just one change from the side that drew last time out with Ben Alexander replacing John Christian (injured). James McCluskey reverted back to a more familiar central midfield role. Despite Ronayne Marsh-Brown seeing red late on last weekend, his suspension did not come into effect for this game so he was able to start as normal. Garry Senior was another out injured, but there was an appearance for Rob Ursell, whose inclusion definitely gave everyone a lift on a chilly afternoon.

It was the visitors who began the brighter and they almost crept ahead in the opening minutes. With a strong wind behind them, Jim Mann delivered a looping long throw into the danger zone. Mitch Swain misjudged its flight and came racing out only to see Russell Canderton get there first. The defender’s header was creeping wide, and to Northwood’s relief it did just that despite the best efforts of Mark Bitmead who attempted to turn it home. The home side’s first meaningful attack brought with it a nice, neat passing move. A great interchange of passes between Jonathan Constant, Craig White and McCluskey ended with an effort at goal by Constant but Paul McCarthy was right behind it.

Then the Woods breathed a sigh of relief as another long throw by Mann was headed wide by Bairoh Conteh who should have hit the target. Subsequently the visitors won a corner and although the initial delivery was half cleared by Oliver Hawkins, it was not long before it was back into the area and a header by Dan Brown drifted wide of the mark. Soon after, Northwood were almost architects of their own downfall as Lee Grant was caught in possession. Thankfully though, Ed Thomas’ effort from the edge of the area never threatened Swain.

As a spectator you got the feeling that the sustained pressure by Ashford would take its toll. And it did. A counter attack was thwarted at the expense of a free kick as McCluskey tripped Thomas. The resulting ball in by Bitmead was helped on its way via Brown as it nestled in the bottom right hand corner beyond Swain, who had no chance. 1-0 to Ashford Town on 31 minutes: Brown’s 13th goal of the season.

Northwood were looking for a response, and a teasing cross by Scott Raper appeared to evade everyone, although at the far post Grant hooked the ball back into the mix but Harry Knock smashed it away for a corner. For the first time in the afternoon, Romaine Walker set off on a mazy run weaving inside a couple of defenders before setting up captain Marsh-Brown. The pacy left-back’s cross was blocked and that led to a counter attack down Northwood’s left hand side as Ashford exploited the gap vacated by the two aforementioned Woods players. The danger didn’t come to much as the solid Reece Yorke was able to clear.

That proved to be the last action of the first forty five minutes as Northwood headed into the break 1-0 behind, although buoyed at the thought that they were still very much in the game. Now Northwood had the breeze behind them as it was Ashford’s turn to cope with the harrowing conditions.

Northwood made a change at the break as the ineffective Alexander was replaced by Ursell (whose flight only arrived into London Heathrow from Cyprus at 1.45 pm this afternoon). The substitution resulted in Walker moving from the left flank to drop in behind top scorer Hawkins.  Ursell’s introduction instigated an upping of the tempo as from the kick off the tricky playmaker was given space in the middle of the park. He fed the impressive McCluskey, yet the promising attack came to nothing as Town snuffed out the danger. Moments later the excellent Marsh-Brown rode forward and won a corner. He duly stepped up to drive it into the middle, where Hawkins connected. The offside flag was raised anyway, but nonetheless Yorke would have been relieved as he saw his effort at the back post somehow saved by McCarthy when it looked easier to find the net.

The positive start to the second period led to the equalising goal on 51 minutes. Delightful one touch football from start to finish. Ursell was the instigator as he released Walker, the electric winger straightened before threading the ball to Constant out on the right. The former Harrow Borough man then placed a first time low cross along the box to Hawkins, who did well to stay onside. The rest was a formality as Hawkins simply prodded home to cap off a brilliant attacking move. Northwood’s top scorer now has 14 for the season (13 of which have come in the League); however it was his first of the calendar year. 1-1, and very much anybody’s game.

Northwood were back level but they were fortunate not to fall behind as Marsh-Brown cleared off the line following a dangerous goalmouth scramble. Up the other end and Ursell showed his prowess by showboating his way past two bemused defenders. However his effort was scuffed and to his frustration rolled into the arms of a grateful McCarthy. The Woods’ frantic ‘like there was no tomorrow’ attitude didn’t die down as another exquisite passing move followed with (once again) Ursell at the heart of it all. He found McCluskey, who in turn played it to Hawkins. The tall striker controlled well setting up Marsh-Brown who was calling for it down the left hand side. The right-back Knock had his work cut out as he had to contend with two rampaging players in Marsh-Brown and Walker for the duration of the 90 minutes, and the Woods skipper delivered an inviting low cross which had McCarthy caught in two minds. Walker, though, couldn’t make up the required ground as the ball evaded him.

A brief time later and Ashford were grateful for the stoppage as captain Canderton collided with Raper. Canderton came off worse, but in truth it was a case of both players tenaciously trying to claim the loose ball. Then came a controversial ‘heart in mouth’ moment as a cross by Kirihara Takahiro took off in the swirling wind, causing all sorts of problems for Swain, who did well to punch clear under severe pressure. Despite appearing to have been pushed over, the referee Constantine Hatzidakis was oblivious to the infringement allowing play to continue. Swain’s punch bounced kindly for Bitmead who had an open goal in front of him but his diving header crept just wide of the right hand upright, when it looked easier to score. Brown then tried his luck as he let rip from 35 yards: guided by the wind, his effort just cleared the crossbar.

The home side were dominating possession and once again it came as no surprise to see McCluskey and Marsh-Brown in the thick of it all. The latter didn’t connect well with his cross; however Hawkins still adjusted his body adequately enough to control. The hard working young forward tried to round McCarthy and although he almost deceived the Ash Trees’ stopper, the latter made sufficient contact to take it away from the feet of the Woods goalscorer. Ashford were living dangerously. Then, Northwood were aggrieved when only a short time later they had a penalty appeal for hand ball waved away. Constant’s driven ball in from the right flank appeared to strike the arm of an Ashford defender, not once but twice as he slipped and appeared to make contact with it on the ground. Belligerent appeals for a spot kick were dismissed by the referee, although the linesman was in the perfect position to see, yet decided against awarding it. From the rebound Constant – from an acute angle – struck the bar.

Up the other end, Canderton thought he’d scored at the far post only for goal line intervention by Raper, who hooked the ball to safety. From the clearance Northwood built up a head of steam and won a corner off Takahiro. Constant delivered a neat looking ball which Hawkins was always favourite for, and sure enough he got there first flicking it towards goal. McCarthy got down well parrying it away, but only as far as Craig White, who pounced to slam home from close range. Northwood were eight minutes away from registering a first win in 2012. 2-1 to Northwood on 82 minutes.

Woods then pushed forward for a goal which would effectively seal the points. Another passage of play saw Constant again stride into the box and Conteh appeared to make contact with him, although this time the defender got a foot on it before bringing down the dangerous winger. Then after weathering late pressure from Paul Burgess’ outfit, Ursell almost crowned the win as he went close on the turn.

That proved to be the final action of an entertaining game in which Northwood finally broke their duck, picking up three points for the first time since New Year’s Eve. The only downside is that captain Marsh-Brown’s suspension is enforced beginning with next Saturday’s trip to Daventry Town. The win marked Northwood’s 12th league success of the season, eclipsing last season’s tally of 11 wins. Woods now rise to 6th place level on points with Biggleswade Town who sit in the final play off place. It was a game of two halves, as Northwood showed an abundance of character to come from behind and see off a spirited Ashford Town side.

As usual after the conclusion of the game, manager Gary Meakin had questions thrown at him about the game. Meakin was asked about how it must ‘feel good’ to register a long overdue first win in 2012. “It does, it feels better when you come from behind. We were never worried at half-time because we knew we could get back into the game. We have been dropping points, the game against North Greenford we should have won, and then we conceded late against Hayes and obviously last week. So yes, it feels sweet.”

Meakin was also asked about how Rob Ursell appeared an inspired substitution at half time. “Yes, he’s got the creativity and spark you need if you are going to win, he is so comfortable in possession and he never panics. It’s amazing because his plane only landed at Heathrow (from Cyprus) at 1.45pm this afternoon and he played for his side yesterday as well, but he has the quality everyone would like.”

Following that Meakin was put the question that, having won this afternoon, it must feel good to register a 12th scalp of the campaign – more than the eleven from last year. “Yes, as a manager I think we should have won more as well, as we have dropped points from winning positions, and conceded late, as well as losing games we should have won. But having said that, if you had said in July or August last year that we would be where we are in January, then I would have taken our position.”

Finally, the Northwood manager, who celebrated 100 games in management last weekend, was asked to comment on why things didn’t go to plan in the first forty five minutes. “It was the conditions. The pitch isn’t great but it was the wind in particular. They had the conditions go for them in the first half and they win the first period 1-0. We had the conditions go our way in the second and we win 2-0. Whether we head in to the dressing room at half time and the score is 0-0, 0-1, or 1-1 we do not panic, as we know we are in the game. Today I said to the boys that we would have the benefit of the conditions in the second half. It wasn’t as if we didn’t turn up in the first half), we put a shift in and sometimes it doesn’t go to plan, but we came away with a good win.”

In addition to Meakin’s comments, captain Ronayne Marsh-Brown issued an apology after his sending off for dissent last weekend. “I let the fans and the players down, and as the captain of the team I have to lead by example. I just want to reiterate that I am 100% for the cause. It won’t happen again.”

Report by MATTHEW FORD

Photos by James Brown