Wednesday night’s Cherry Red Records Premier Challenge Cup tie was one for the youngsters of Ascot United as the Yellamen took a squad that included eight young players to Balham’s Wibbandune Sports Ground in Wimbledon.
Ascot advanced thanks 2-1 thanks to goals from Aiden Higgs and Harry Laflin, but not before a fourth minute own goal caused a few nerves on the away sides bench.
Football in Berkshire caught up with Ascot boss Jamie Tompkins – who handed youngster James Richardson the captaincy on the night – about his decision to field a youthful side which he said was done with not only winning the tie, but winning the Combined Counties League Premier Division in mind.
In recent weeks, Ascot have signed up a number of their Allied Counties Youth League side on senior forms including the quintet of Tom Bailey, Lawson Jones, Dan Martin-Cenzano, Dominic Reid and James Sanders.
Tompkins said: “We targeted the league cup as an opportunity for some of these lads. We’ve been monitoring them for awhile, the youth and senior teams train at the same facility on the same night so we’re able to bring several across at times to give them a taste.
They’re always in our thoughts, youth team manager Josh Nice is constantly updating me after their games.”
He admitted he was a little nervous after the own goal went in but added: “The cup game was a great opportunity to give players a chance. They never let you down, they’re full of effort and hunger. We also wanted to show the club will give opportunities to youngsters to play for the senior side.
“Ultimately, we wanted to win the game and want to win the league. It’s about using our squad wisely, I picked a team I thought could win the game.
“It was tough though, four minutes in we conceded an own goal of our own making. I was thinking it might be a tough one but the boys responded brilliantly.”
He added: “Balham are a good side, they create space and have a lot of threat.”
“We want to win it”
Tompkins side top of the Combined Counties League Premier Division by one point from Spelthorne Sports who they play on Saturday 8th February.
First up though, the Yellamen host Egham Town at the Racecourse this Saturday, but naturally Tompkins isn’t getting carried away. He said: “We want to win the league title, but we’re just focused on performance. If we perform well then the points and the position will take care of itself.
“We’ve had a bit of a dip, we’ve had injuries and suspensions. At one point we had 10 out. Sam Evans was one youngster we looked at and made his debut. It’s part of using your squad, we’re preparing these young players for senior football which will only benefit Ascot United in the long run.”
The 21st century has been a fruitful one for the club so far. Last season they lifted the Hellenic League Challenge Cup beating Windsor in the final and in 2016 they lifted the Floodlit Cup.
A senior league title has eluded the club though since they won the Thames Valley Premier League (then the Reading Senior League) in 2007. Second place in the 2008/09 Hellenic League Division One East was enough for promotion to the Premier and strong progress followed. A Combined Counties League or Cup title at the first attempt would be the icing on the cake.