The first of three games in a row at the Racecourse Ground ended in defeat for Ascot United as they were beaten 2-1 by Highmoor-IBIS with manager Jeff Lamb forced to deputise in goal.
Highmoor were at the Racecourse off the back of their eleventh place finish in the Hellenic Premier League last season while the home side finished 7 places above them but with an almost entirely new look side.
The game started at a good pace, both sides not frightened of pushing forward and taking shots at goal. The pace of Ascots front man Luke Wilson catching out the Highmoor defence on a few occasions but with little reward, the ball going everywhere bar the back of the net. The same can be said for Highmoor, Mitchell Parker putting a clear chance for the visitors over the bar early on.
Stand-in captain Paul Coyne had the armband for the evening with Jesse Wilson unavailable and pushed his men forward but it was Highmoor who looked to take advantage – a shot from a one on one with the keeper going past the right hand post.
25 minutes in saw a dangerous free-kick for Ascot, Coyne stepped up to take but former Binfield ‘keeper Nathan Silver was able to collect with ease.
The match changed minutes later when Ascot’s new goalkeeper Carl Dennison came out of the penalty area, perhaps a little indecisively and clashed with the Highmoor forward.
Referee Paul Andrews consulted with his assistant but had no choice other to show red to the debutant ‘keeper leaving the home side down to ten men.
Manager Jeff Lamb, on the pitch in the starting eleven rallied his side and took on the gloves. The resulting free kick for the visitors a few yard outside the box giving the Ascot boss no trouble in his first few minutes between the sticks.
Not much bothered Lamb until a few minutes before the half time whistle when Anthony White caught the Lamb off his line. A weak lob was all it needed to send Highmoor in at half time a goal up.
The second half started in the same way as the first, both sides taking chances, both having to defend well, Lamb showing great fortitude by saving a through chance from Highmoor’s Chris Gerrard.
Referee Mr Andrews balanced proceedings though awarding a penalty to the home side with ten minutes’ left on the clock, Coyne nestling the ball in the back of Silvers net.
The Yellamen, hungry now for the full three points was denied by the crossbar soon after as a shot from substitute Charlie Samuels failed to hit the net.
The contest looked all but over with the spoils shared, when deep into injury time substitute Yashwa Romeo beat the Ascot defence to find James Piercy who made no mistake.
The home side should feel slightly unlucky for not getting a share in the spoils due in part to their dogged determination throughout when down to ten men, the team worked hard to get something out of the game.
More work to do, I’m sure Ascot would comment on that but they look a strong well held together squad, with added pace that I’m sure will give a lot of team’s trouble over the coming months.
Highmoor-IBIS look a team that may do well this season. They have kept their experienced team and look a strong consistent side, and with a bit of a fair wind Marcus Richardson’s men could possibly repeat their success in the league they had two seasons ago.
Early doors still though, and the FA Cup action a slight distraction from league commitments over the weekend may or maybe not a good thing.
Ascot entertain recently relegated Milton United on Friday evening. Highmoor are away to Carterton on the Saturday.