Marlow United 3 Ashridge Park 9
Ashridge Scorers: Reg Ryan (14',24',60'), Bertie Wilson (18'), Jamie Cole (28', 31'), Jack Clayton (33'), Dan Baker (45', 64')
Star Player: Bertie Wilson
One of the (forunately) rare longer trips in our schedule this season saw us take to the road to High Wycombe to play Marlow United this morning. Marlow had crushed a weakened Ashridge side 6-1 back in April, so the news that our trusty keeper Joe was unavailable on medical grounds was a blow, as was the absence of Marcus due to school commitments once again. It soon became apparent, however, that our opponents had bigger problems, with only 8 of their 13 man squad available to play. After due consideration (and taking into account the hammering we'd taken on our last meeting), we elected to line up with ten players to start with and see how the balance of the game played out.
The early exchanges saw Ashridge with more of the ball, as would be expected with the numerical advantage. However, Marlow are quite a powerful side, and, when they did get the ball, looked dangerous going forward, so the initial threat was on the Ashridge goal. The Marlow right flank player was the primary danger, managing to get past multiple challenges and put some decent balls across, but there were some nice moments of skill from the more central striker as well, and the back four were hard-pressed to close down the danger. Alex, taking first duty in goal, was not hugely tested however, managing to get behind both the early strikes on goal and take the ball cleanly. Ashridge, playing just one out-and-out striker (Reg) in this reduced formation were having more difficulty translating possession into a threat on goal in the first ten minutes, but gradually the penny dropped, and Dan centrally and Jamie and Bertie on the flanks began to push further forward to link play and create some moments of danger. Reg flashed a couple of warning shots across the home side's bow when he out-paced the back line but couldn't find the target; and then duly delivered the visitors the lead on 14 minutes; Dan turned over possession in the Marlow half, before threading a pass through to Reg to slot past the keeper. A second was not long in coming, as Ashridge developed an overload on the back post after Jamie had worked his way down the right, and Bertie was on hand to cut back inside his man and finish into the opposite corner.
Just as Ashridge thought they were comfortable, Marlow struck back, a pass in behind the back four saw the striker go 1-on-1 with Alex; skilfully rounding him to the left before forcing the ball into the empty net. Ashridge quickly restored the cushion, however, as Reg found some space on the right of the box, before firing across the keeper into the opposite side netting for 3-1. The home side were beginning to tire now, and Jamie was next to capitalise, stabbing home from the right of the six-yard box to extend the lead. Once again, Ashridge relaxed too soon, and a long ball from the back evaded James Riley who had stepped out to try to pick it off, and the Marlow forward again outpaced the defence to surge through and finish comfortably to make it 4-2. The chances were now coming thick and fast, as Jamie beat two players before crossing from the right, the ball deflecting up off a defender's block, looping over the keeper before bouncing awkwardly up at a startled Dillon who handled the ball right on the goal line. Jamie soon made another one count, however, rifling home the fifth from the right channel, before being withdrawn as Ashridge decided to reduce further to nine players in view of the balance of play. Not much changed, however, as Marlow now had a couple of players struggling with knocks; and Jack took advantage to make it 6-2 at half-time with a close-range left-foot finish after finding his way through a gap in the centre of the Marlow defence.
The second period was an awkward affair. Marlow were forced to put one of their strikers, who was unable to run, in goal, where he did a surprisingly good job, denying Ashridge on a number of occasions. Whilst they did have eight on the pitch, another player was struggling with an arm or shoulder knock and barely broke into a jog all half. Ashridge withdrew their main strike force, with Reg on the sidelines until the last ten minutes and Jack dropping back into defence. At times the game was being played at testimonial pace as both sides struggled to cover the large pitch with reduced numbers. Various players took their chance to play in slightly more adventurous fashion, with Jack first to advance out of central defence to boss some moves from the midfield areas; whilst James Riley needed no second invitation to run the ball forwards, popping up in the inside left channel, and then surging down the right wing. James had three or four efforts from range which all missed the target, whilst Alex (now relieved by Jamie in goal) also tried his luck wthout success on a couple of occasions; his best effort just clearing the bar from the edge of the box. Ashridge did come up with their seventh ten minutes into the half, with Dan forcing the ball home from close range; then Marlow started to get more control of the game for a spell as the visitors dropped off the pace, and got another goal back, when Ashridge were caught dwelling on the ball at the back, and the forward showed great strength and skill to battle his way through and finish across Jamie into the right hand corner (7-3). Jamie was then forced into a full length save at the expense of a corner, so reinforcements were called for to re-establish more of a grip on the game, with Bertie and Reg returning to the action in place of Mason and Tim. Order was restored; Reg almost immediately hit the crossbar with an effort from outside the penalty area, with Bertie just unable to control the rebound, and he had a couple more efforts miss to the left of the goal. The hat-trick was finally completed on the hour-mark with another fairly simple finish centrally inside the box; and after Ashridge wasted numerous more opportuniities by trying to pass their way into the perfect shooting position, Dan did slot another close range effort home to complete the scoring. James Roberts popped up in the penalty area right at the end and nearly notched his first goal for the club when he almost bundled in a rebound from Alex's corner, but Marlow just managed to force the ball around the post.
Not the ideal circumstances in which to play; whilst a win is a win, I think we'd all prefer to have an even contest than this sort of a game, where we ended with four boys on the sidelines who would rather have had more game time. The players did what they needed to do, and kept the winning run going. Particular thanks to Alex and Jamie for filling in in goal today; otherwise, a really hard match to judge the star player in because of the circumstances. The nod goes to Bertie for showing some great touches on the ball and some nice link up play, and being willing to take on players who were seemingly twice his size! A break from the action now as we have two weekends off; let's hope we dont lose the momentum when we resume after half-term!