More than 50 youngsters were given a lesson in the art of how to take a perfect free-kick by Ascot United ace Harry Laflin on Saturday.
They and their parents were all given free admission to the Cherry Red Records Combined Counties League match against Knaphill which ended in a 1-1 draw.
They helped swell the crowd at the Racecourse Ground to 300 – the limit set to keep spectators safe in these days of social distancing – with around a dozen late arrivals being reluctantly turned away at the gate.
In addition to enjoying chips, burgers and fizzy drinks, the club’s young members watched a reasonably entertaining game which the Yellemen should have won given the number of chances created.
The only goal they did manage came in the 25th minute from a perfectly-placed free-kick when from 20 yards, Laflin beautifully curled the ball over the wall and into the top right-hand corner, just beyond the outstretched hand of keeper Cameron Kennedy.
Ten minutes later the goalie, who was on the short side was nearly caught out when his punched clearance led to Jamie Richardson firing in a shot that struck the crossbar and then Laflin fluffed an opportunity following Jonny Denton’s corner.
The more street-wise of the Ascot youngsters watching on from the side-lines will also have learned the importance of keeping a solid shape when defending.
Knaphill, having more of the possession, weaved some intricate patterns in midfield as they looked to build attacks, but they very rarely threatened in the final third with United’s back-four standing firm.
Unfortunately for them, they were unable to clean sheet as in the 81st minute a corner from the Knaphill left was firmly headed home by Usman Lalustani, the former Ascot player.
Yet, the Yellamen should have regained the lead almost immediately afterwards when Morgan Taylor, with time on his side, created space for himself to the left of the Knaphill goal, only to roll the ball just past the far post.
The visitors were restricted to only a few scoring opportunities, yet nearly snatched all three points.
Danny Taylor shot over from close range and a weak clearance by Sam Gray gifted a golden opportunity for substitute Leon Byrne-Adim, but the goalie redeemed himself by superbly pushing the shot aside.
Ascot were following up their midweek 3-1 win over CB Hounslow, their goals coming from Aiden Higgs and Laflin, whose brace included a penalty.
Jamie Tompkins’ men are now unbeaten in six league and cup games although three of the last four have ended 1-1.
“We need to start turning draws into a win,” remarked the manager. “We had a lot of chances today and should have won the game. We are becoming a hard side to beat and we need to keep the momentum going.”
Ascot are fifth in the table, having played more games than all the sides above them who are headed by unbeaten Sutton Common Rovers.
United are away to Southern Combination League side Newhaven this coming Saturday and they face a tough encounter as the East Sussex side have won six and drawn two of their nine games, with an impressive goals record of 23 for and just six against. They hammered East Preston 5-1 last Saturday to go fourth in the Premier Division placings.
Tompkins added: “We have done some research on them and we will be well prepared, but we will need to show our strengths.”