FA Cup action came to the Royal County, the racecourse ground offering hospitality to a crowd of 430 in a 1st round qualifying tie that had it all, goals, penalties, drama and skill.
Ascot Utd of step five Hellenic league were hosts to Tonbridge Angels of the Ryman premier, two steps higher than that of the home side.
Respect given by both teams pre match in order to gain the upper hand.
‘I must admit I had Ascot watched a couple of times over the past few weeks.’ Mentioned the Tonbridge manager Steve McKimm, ‘We have come here today with full respect to the home side and it has shown as we have played a side that plays the game well and a handful for any opposition.’ It must be said that listening around the ground during the game the vocal and enthusiastic away support chatted amongst themselves comparing Ascot to many teams in their area, and a hint of surprise in their voices as to how good Ascot were.
It wasn’t long before more seeds of doubt were sown in the visitor’s minds as a high ball came in and looked as such for only the Tonbridge keeper to claim, a fumble near Anthony DiBernardo’s right hand post saw the ball sit up for Charlie Samuels to smash the ball into the back of the net.
‘Charlie has been a handful throughout the season.’ Mentioned Ascots assistant manager Paul McGrotty, Jeff Lamb away from the game due to his daughters christening. ‘I have told him he would could easily be a player at a higher level if he continues at this rate.’
It wasn’t long though before the visitors to the race course ground found their feet, Tonbridge a powerful, skilful side with a player up front in the quality of Nathan Elder, who has played for Brighton and Hove Albion and Brentford found a ball swoop in from a corner from the right, and head the ball past Ascots Carl Dennison.
The goal settling the visitor’s nerves know saw them playing quality football, their strength showing as they seemed to place Ascot one too many times on the back foot. Ascot though not all in retreat still came forward Samuels showing holes in Tonbridge’s back four, with support from the home sides midfield ascot in many cases was defiantly not the underdogs, the half time whistle coming with honours shared, the stage set for an explosive second half of FA cup action.
Second half saw the visitors come out strong, Tonbridge looking at putting the game to bed placed quality crosses into the area to their experienced front men, Ascot riding their luck one occasion to many, it wasn’t long before a snap tackle at the impressive Elder from Jesse Wilson gave the referee no reason not to give Tonbridge the penalty kick, Tonbridge’s Luke Allen scoring from the spot.
Ascot still came forward in a tradition over the years the Yellamen faithful have come to expect, Charlie Samuels ever in the fray taking four challenges before getting the ball past Di Bernardo to again bring the score to level pegging.
The last quarter of an hour of the game, both sides did their best to clinch the tie, and again referee Mr Williams getting involved in the game giving a spot kick this time to Ascot for a push in the 18-yard box. Paul Coyne stepping up to take the shot to Di Bernardo’s right, the keeper reading the shot and goal saved, a goal that Tonbridge would not have come back from.
‘Paul is gutted in the changing room, it takes courage to take those sorts of decisions, to be fair he struck it well, the keepers been lucky enough to get a hand to it.’ mentioned McGrotty, ‘but I’ve told him it happens and we have to look on now to the replay. To be fair before the game 2-2 would have been a happy result, but coming so close to the next round, just a little though of what could have been.’
Ascot looking to improve on performances, and do so game after game now have to gear up for a long trip to The Longmead Stadium in Kent, ‘we know we need to add to the squad, and we are working hard to find the right people, but happy with the way we keep progressing.’ Never a true word said, but progress Ascot will have to do and they face Tonbridge in their own back yard.