NORTHWOOD FC   Saturday 6th August 2016   ASHFORD TOWN FC

Evo-Stik League Southern Division One Central

  Northwood 1  Ashford Town 3   

M Burgess 45

Fleming 23, Bitmead 30,
English 55

Team line-up  
  Team line-up
1 Thomas Spenser     1 Tyler Tobin
2 Alex Nolan     2 Joe Green
3 Callum Wright     3 Alex Fisher
4 Mark Burgess     4 Max Herbert
5 James Budden     5 Russell Canderton
6 Julian Smith (60m)     6 Jonas Romario
7 Luke Heneghan     7 Mark Bidmead
8 James Burgess (72m)     8 Max Webb
9 Ryan Debattista     9 Dan Fleming
10 Louis Stead     10 Bayley Mummery
11 Frankie Jones     11 Kameron English (76m)
Substitutes     Substitutes
12 Myles Stephenson (60m)     12 Jack Beadle (76m)
14 Issouf Coulibaly     14 Perry Lucking
15 Georges Ehui (72m)     15 Tommy Brunton
16 Simeon Owen     16 Bradley Wainwright
17 Elias Moses     17 Kavanagh Keadell
      Referee: Stu Kyle; Assistants: Luigi Lungarella & Ivaylo Kyosev      
  REPORT by Alan Evans    PHOTOS by James Brown  

After a summer of disruption where nine first-team squad players departed the club for higher-level football, Mark Burgess started his rebuilding work with a home game against an Ashford Town (Middlesex) side. The visitors were still full of the buoyant confidence brought about by a promotion as they returned to Evo-Stik League Southern action after a two-year absence.

Six of the starting eleven were making first-team debuts for Northwood’s first-team, though two of them, Julian Smith and Callum Wright were both returning to the club where they played for both Under-18 and reserve sides in past seasons. Having enjoyed an unbeaten pre-season campaign, although not against the strongest of opposition, the Woods did make a bright start to the game, shading the early stages though without really threatening the opposition goal.

The first gimmer of a chance though fell to the Tangerines as a long ball saw Dan Fleming find space for a shot but Mark Burgess got across well to block for a corner. Northwood enjoyed a couple of early free-kicks, awarded for fouls on newcomer Frankie Jones and from the second of these there did seem to be legitimate claims for a penalty as a defender blocked with hands raised but the Referee wasn’t convinced.

After 19 minutes, a quick break threatened the Woods goal but a poor finish from Bayley Mummery failed to test debut goalkeeper Thomas Spenser but three minutes later a long ball saw Mark Burgess misdirect a header which left Spenser stranded but the ball bounced wide of the goal. The danger signs were there that the Northwood defence wasn’t gelling well enough and on 23 minutes they were made to pay as a good run down the right from Max Webb saw his cross converted by a near-post flick by the alert Fleming.

Fleming could have had a second soon after this as Max Herbert recovered a half-cleared corner and knocked in an excellent cross but Fleming’s flicked header clipped the post. They didn’t have to wait long for a second goal though as Mark Bitmead got ahead of Mark Burgess and then tumbled over as the player-manager tried to get back at him just inside the box. No real arguments about the spot-kick that was awarded and Bitmead picked himself back up to fire home.

Five minutes later, Wright was booked for a tackle just outside the box and Bitmead fancied himself from the resulting free-kick. He struck it well but it cannoned back off the crossbar and Spenser gratefully grabbed the rebound. Northwood rallied and a good surge forward from Smith saw him set up Luke Heneghan for a shot which goalkeeper Tyler Tobin was unable to hold but an offside flag was raised as Ryan Debattista looked to convert the loose ball.
Fleming was gifted another chance on 41 minutes as Spenser came out of goal and then hit a clearance straight at him on the halfway-line. He hit his shot first time but it drifted wide of the far post. And soon after a chance to score a third, the Woods then reduced the deficit to 1-2 as a free-kick was headed back across goal by James Budden and Mark Burgess pounced from close-range for his first goal since February 2013 and only his third in over 200 appearances for the club.

It briefly raised hopes of a stirring second half comeback but things never really progressed after the break and Ashford scored the goal of the game with a third on 56 minutes as Kameron English let fly from distance with a shot that flew  and beat Spenser at his near post.

The introduction of Myles Stephenson as a second forward made little impact and after Fleming had headed well wide on 68 minutes, the Woods found themselves ripped apart again soon after and Bitmead’s shot was once again blocked by Mark Burgess for a corner.

Issouf Coulibaly made it a seventh debut for the Woods fifteen minutes from time and there was plenty of endeavour in the closing stages but with little to show in attack by either side as Ashford saw the game out comfortably and took all three points.