ASHFORD TOWN   Saturday 29th December 2012   NORTHWOOD FC

Evo-Stik Southern League Central Division

  Ashford Town 4   Northwood 0   

Palladino 29, Weight 74
Lockhart-Adams 78, 90


Team line-up  

  Team line-up
1 Kyle Merson     1 James Reading
2 Chris Robinson     2 Ricky Rogers (84m)
3 Ed Thomas     3 Lee Grant
4 Jim Mann     4 Brad Hewitt
5 Bairoh Conteh     5 James Fraser (69m)
6 Scott Weight (80m)     6 Tyrell Miller-Rodney
7 Joe Bennett     7 Sam Beale
8 Jack Mullan     8 Craig White
9 Kofi Lockhart-Adams     9 Bradley Wilkinson
10 Pietro Palladino (80m)     10 Adamson Ajayi
11 Perry Luckins (68m)     11 Romaine Walker
Substitutes     Substitutes
12 Mark Bitmead (68m)     12 Simon Huggett (84m)
14 Samad Kazi     14 Adil Salih (69m)
15 Rob Curtis (80m)     15 Dean Worman
16 Robbie Sitch (80m)     16 -
17 Paul McCarthy     17 Garry Malone
      Referee: Paul Forrester; Assistants: Stuart Pater & William Finnie      
  REPORT by Alan Evans      PHOTOS by James Brown  

There was no festive cheer for Northwood as they played their first fixture in two weeks but were left well-beaten by a useful Ashford Town side that dominated for most of the game and completed a league “double” over the Woods. Mark Burgess was left with a selection headache as his own suspension, added to that of John Christian, was accompanied by no less than four players away for the holiday period. Reece Yorke, Ryan Phillips plus the usual strike pair of Oliver Hawkins and Spencer Bellotti were all absent, so it was probably with a little disappointment that the pitch was one of only two in the division declared as fit to be played on.

Recent recruit to the squad Bradley Wilkinson was given his starting debut up front and it proved to be a thankless task for much of the contest as the home side, fresh from a Boxing Day home victory, were quickly into their stride. Pietro Palladino made inroads down the left and got past Brad Hewitt before rolling a pass across the face of the goal but the ball was cleared away.

The Woods had a rare attack themselves after 12 minutes as Adamson Ajayi picked up a ball from Sam Beale and drove across the edge of the box, riding a tackle and then chipping a shot past goalkeeper Kyle Merson but also just wide of the post. Five minutes later, it was the turn of Perry Luckins to find space down the left and he sent over a perfect cross to Palladino whose goalbound shot was cleared off the line by Lee Grant. Almost immediately, Luckins was back in action, winning the ball off of Ricky Rogers and knocking in a ball to an unmarked Palladino who this time stabbed his shot well wide.

Kofi Lockhart-Adams fired wide after a channel ball from Palladino as Ashford continued to hold sway and they eventually made the pressure tell with the opening goal after 28 minutes. The Woods hadn’t learned the danger move as Luckins sped forward and knocked the ball wide to the overlapping Ed Thomas. His cross was another accurate one and this time Palladino made no mistake to convert an easy chance.

The Woods had little to offer in response but did win a free-kick just outside the box after Ajayi was clipped. The ball was worked into the box by Craig White and Tyrell Miller-Rodney saw his shot blocked at the bear-post by on-loan Staines Town goalkeeper Merson. Ashford were still looking for a second before the break and forced a succession of corners. From the last of these, James Reading’s attempted punch was headed back across goal and Bairoh Conteh headed wide from a good position.

The home side continued to dominate after the break with Reading making a fine save to deflect a low well-struck Luckins drive over the top and then the Woods keeper also kept out a Palladino header after Hewitt’s attempted clearance had deflected straight across goal. It was after 68 minutes that the Woods almost conjured up an equaliser against the run of play as Wilkinson battled past his marker and slipped a ball inside the box. Miller-Rodney was quickest onto it only to see his low shot blocked by Merson who was alert to the danger.

Adil Salih replaced James Fraser, and almost immediately the newcomer linked with Beale to play Ajayi into the box but his shot on the turn was also blocked for a corner. That was swung in by Beale but the ball struck the top of the crossbar and off with Merson struggling. That brief rally was thwarted after 74 minutes as substitute Mark Bitmead knocked in a corner and skipper Scott Weight stole in unmarked to head home a second goal for Ashford.

It was a killer blow to a hard-working Northwood side but they did have one last stab at pulling a goal back just two minutes later as Beale knocked in a cross to Romaine Walker whose shot was well saved by Merson. On 78 minutes another corner saw Wilkinson’s attempted header away, come back off his own crossbar and the loose ball was seized on by Lockhart-Adams for a third goal. And the opportunistic striker added his second of the game in the first minute of stoppage-time after Reading could only palm away a good strike from Thomas.

It was the Woods' fourth successive league defeat and they will be hoping for better things in the New Year, starting at home to AFC Hayes on Tuesday afternoon.