An exciting game which the Sharks should have won easily given the excellent chances they created.  In the end they conceded a harsh, but well taken, equalizer late on and had to settle for a share of the spoils.  But again, there was a lot to be positive about and some superb football from the Sharks.

It was a windy day on the exposed Ashford Town pitch and the Sharks had the apparent advantage of kicking with the wind first half. Perhaps the early start affected them a little because they struggled to get any real rhythm going in the first 15 minutes.  The game was bitty with neither side really able to get a grip on the match. With Ben and Rory resting, Jakub deputized in goal first half and was largely untroubled, collecting well when called upon and using the wind to launch some dangerous kicks into the Ashford half.

Their keeper was equally untroubled, although the Sharks started to exert themselves as the half wore on. Francis and Nile were working hard up front but couldn’t quite find the final ball, and the best move of the half saw Wiktor waltzing through the Ashford defence before slightly scuffing his shot to the keeper.

Nile had another chance minutes later as he showed good strength to turn his man on the edge of the box and shoot – but it went straight to the big Ashford keeper. Then Francis showed some great skill on the left wing, turning his marker with a lovely drag back and finding himself in space. His cross was knocked out for a corner and the half came to a close with the deadlock unbroken.

Given the wind, we were expecting the second half to be tough, but in actual fact the Sharks really came to life and started to control the game.  Alejandro was imperious at centre back, bringing the ball forward with purpose and calmness and feeding the front men well. Martin and Phin were linking up excellently with the wide players and the Sharks were creating a lot of very good chances.

But the Ashford keeper was strong and hard to beat.  Gabriel had two great efforts saved, along with Wiktor, Francis and Nile – who all found themselves free with the keeper to beat.

It’s no exaggeration to say the Sharks could have been 3 or 4-0 up by now, such was the quality of the play and the chances they were creating.  Had they looked up when running on goal and squared the ball, they’d have had at least three tap-ins.  It’s a good lesson to learn; you need to take your chances in football and make them count – otherwise you might not get what you deserve from the game.

As it was, a goal seemed inevitable, such was the Sharks’ dominance.  It finally came with a great move down the wing. Phin played the ball intelligently to Francis on the left.  Francis used his speed and skill to beat his man and fire the ball across the area.  Nile forced his way onto the ball and, despite some stout defending from two Ashford players, fired home well from close range.  Good goal and 1-0 to the Sharks.

They continued their good pressure and composed play and looked like they would extend their lead and finish the game off rather than suffer the set back of an equalizer. Martin took over in goal midway through the half to replace Jakub and showed good handling and anticipation when called upon.

There was some controversy as the Sharks pushed for a second goal. At one point, during a good Sharks’ attack, the ball fell to Gabriel who fired hard towards goal from the edge of the box.  An Ashford defender threw himself bravely at the ball and blocked the shot. The ball lodged between his legs and there followed some confusion as the Sharks tried to get it off him, but he held onto it between his legs.

A few of the boys felt it should have been a penalty or a free kick to the Sharks for obstruction. In actual fact, a drop ball should be given in those circumstances, on the edge of the box nearest to the incident – and the referee made exactly the right call.

Ashford Town had one outstanding player – and he came on after a short break with 5 minutes to go and started to look dangerous. He was creating chances, pushing the Sharks back and causing some panic in our defence.  Eventually, they got a corner and the Sharks failed to clear it properly. It fell to Ashford’s star man. He controlled it, and played a superb shot from the edge of the area right into the corner of the net. Nothing Martin could do about it – a really fine goal.

It was so harsh, so late in the game, given the chances the Sharks had created. The momentum was with Ashford now and it looked as though the unthinkable might happen. The referee somehow found another 5 minutes of time, despite telling me 5 mins earlier that there were only 5 mins left!

But the Sharks held firm and could have sneaked a winner themselves in the added time. Eventually the final whistle went and the points were shared.

It felt like a loss to many of the boys, who were so close to a good away win. In a way it’s good that they were so affected by a draw – they have the winning mentality and wanted to take all three points. But it’s also a good way for them to learn that football can be a cruel game sometimes – and it’s vital you take your chances when they come.

But it was a good display overall. The confident passing we’ve come to admire was really on show again and we were dominant throughout much of the match.  With our games in hand, we can climb back to second place in the table, which our football probably merits.

Let’s hope we can start a winning run with all three points in our first meeting with Barnes Eagles Juniors away this Sunday.

Damien

Thanks to Kasia for the excellent pictures again.