Ashford Town (Middlesex) 1 Ware 3
By Stephen King
Ware within one place of the play-offs after a return to winning ways.
A strong gusting wind didn't help either team to produce their best form and Ware were further handicapped by the late arrival of some players who were then left on the bench plus a work related injury that kept Harry Norman out of the side. As a result the visitors fielded their most changed starting line up for some time.
The Blues' previous two games had seen their best performances of the season yet produced only one point so there was some irony that this game should produce their first win in four outings. It was also their eighth away win in nine to reinvigorate their play-off chances.
Ware got off to the best possible start after Ashford captain and goal keeper Tyler Tobin failed to clear a back pass and instead got it tangled in his feet. Albert Adu was quickest to the scene and took control of the ball with just an open net in front of him. The opening goal was a formality.
Ashford responded well to this set back and much of the first half was characterised by some good approach work from the home side. They hustled Ware out of possession in midfield and then found their men well to mount numerous attacks.
This made for a congested penalty area at times and as early as the ninth minute a home attacker went down under pressure but the referee waved away penalty appeals. Then mid-way through the half Ashford had the ball in the net only to be given offside before Kofi Lockhart-Adams' snap shot went over the bar. Yet for all their apparent dominance the home side rarely troubled Calum Kitscha in the Ware goal.
Ware were left to make the most of break outs from defence with Dave Cowley usually the man to be set free on the left. These mostly had the home defence caught up field and back peddling to cut out his crosses to whichever player was racing into the penalty area but real opportunities were scarce.
Cowley had his own chance after a cross from Ben Hart but his header lacked power and direction before he too had an opportunistic shot, this time from distance but this too went wide. It was not until the very end of normal time in the first half that Cowley was breaking through again though this time down the centre and into the penalty area where Adam Baigent brought him down.
Ware's number eleven got up to take the penalty kick himself with an impudent dink to Tobin's right as the keeper dived to his left and sent Ware in at the break two goals to the good.
If Ashford hoped to make the best of the wind at their back in the second half the game was pretty much put beyond them five minutes after the break. Tom Bruno's free kick dropped into the area where Leigh Rose was waiting. With his back to goal Rose's neat header looped over Tobin and into the net.
Beyond them or not Ashford continued to search for a way back into the game and hit the woodwork twice, once from a free kick and once from a quick break. The latter followed a period of Ware pressure that had seen one attack scrambled away before the ball came back and Tommy Wade appeared to be dragged to the ground in the penalty area. He may have been but the referee was as unresponsive to Ware's appeals as he had been to the home side's penalty claims an hour earlier.
However, time was now on Ware's side and Paul Halsey felt confident enough to rest Cowley and bring on youth player Andrew Bennett for his first game. At 16 years and 297 days he is the youngest first team debutant since Cameron Currie in October 2015.
At the end of the game the manager was pleased that his side had prospered in the difficult conditions but was less pleased to have conceded a clean sheet four minutes from the end of normal time. A corner from the Ware right was converted by Gurkan Gokmen's clever flick. That may have been disappointing for the Ware camp but it would be hard to deny the hosts their share in the scoring.
Ware: Calum Kitscha, Charlie Yexley, Williams Danquah, Tom Bruno, Bradley Fraser, Gareth Madden, Ben Hart (Tommy Wade 50mins), Leigh Rose, Jack Daveney (Brandon Adams 89mins), Albert Adu, Dave Cowley (Andrew Bennett 74mins). Unused subs: Louis Rose, Michael Bardle.