Ashridge Park 4 Hearts of Teddlothian Lions 3
Ashridge Scorer: Reg Ryan (28', 50', 63', 75')
Star Player: Reg Ryan
After a three-week gap for Easter, we were back in action this morning with the visit of Hearts of Teddlothian Lions to St Crispins. With Jack C injured again, and Tim away, Alex once again dropped into the left back role as he had done when the teams met last month - a game which saw Ashridge run out comfortable winners. Tayseer was also missing for the home team. The conditions were not great, with a strong wind gusting diagonally across the pitch, but the pitch itself was in good nick, with this week's rain having eased what had been a very bumpy surface recently.
Hearts started the game attacking the far end, with the conditions slightly in their favour. They immediately put Ashridge under pressure, winning most of the loose balls in the central areas, and looking to pressurise the Ashridge defence at every turn. This paid dividends quickly, as in the second minute a ball played towards the Ashridge box was headed up in the air by Alex, and the imposing number 11 was quickly on to the second ball, heading it beyond the retreating defence, and tucking the ball back past Joe from the right angle of the six yard box to put the visitors in front. Ashridge took a while to compose themselves, and further mis-timed headers and clearances saw them concede three corners, which were cleared with some difficulty; whilst Joe had to be alert to come out and collect ahead of the marauding forward as Hearts tried some long-ball tactics from the back. From the ten minute mark, however, the early orange tide receded, and Ashridge began to enjoy a strong spell of their own, with Reg and Antonio looking lively up-front, and Jack G and Dan beginning to make headway in midfield. They were nearly level on the quarter-hour mark as Antonio's corner from the left was met with a solid header from Reg which crashed against the crossbar before being scrambled behind by the visitors' defence, and a further almost identical situation saw the ball glanced just wide of the far post. This strong period ended on 20 minutes with Ashridge falling further behind, as a careless lay-off from Jamie put Alex under pressure, Alex's clearance came quickly back into the danger area; Jamie tried to retrieve the situation, but his clearance struck the hand of the no 11 at point-blank range, and the striker then calmly placed the ball past Joe from the edge of the box for his and Hearts' second.
Hearts continued to profit from the wind behind them and maintained the better part of possession and territory up until half time as Ashridge found their clearances limited in range; however the earlier danger being posed subsided somewhat as some of the early pace and enthusiasm of their forward line fell away. Instead it was Ashridge who carved out the better chances: Reg first bringing a good save from the visitors' keeper to push a cross-shot behind, before reducing the deficit just before the half-hour mark with a fine goal; Bertie playing the ball from half-way into the left channel, where Reg attacked the defender on the outside before jinking back inside and firing a shot between him and the covering central player, and beating the keeper's full length dive and finding the net just inside the far post. Five minutes later and Ashridge nearly levelled things up; again Reg breaking in the left channel and this time going past his man on the outside before pulling the ball back left-footed across goal, where the stretching Antonio made good contact but couldn't turn it back sufficiently to find the target. 2-1 to the visitors at the break.
The visitors were soon to find out how difficult the wind had been making life for Ashridge in the first half, as they seldom mounted any serious threat on the Ashridge goal in the next 20 minutes of the game. Ashridge soon restored parity, with Bertie again finding Reg left of centre, and Reg bursting beyond the defence and slotting into the right hand corner for 2-2. Reg then nearly turned provider, breaking out of the centre circle, and feeding the ball on the diagonal to try to find Dillon's run, but the keeper reacted quickly and got out to gather the ball. Reg then shot over when well-placed, but it seemed only a matter of time before the pressure told; however a series of strange incidents then changed the whole feel of the game. First a break from Hearts saw James Roberts try to shepherd the ball out for a goal kick under pressure from the Hearts forward, but the ball stopped a few inches inside the line; as the two players continued to jockey for position, the referee blew for a goal kick, causing some consternation all round. Shortly afterwards, another Hearts attack was ended with an offside decision despite the linesman not having flagged, resulting in a lengthy exchange of views between the referee and the Hearts manager and supporters, this going on for some minutes while both sets of players sat around in bemusement. When things did get going again, they went from bad to worse, as Hearts appealed in vain for a penalty, and the no 11 responded to the decision with some audible obscenities aimed at the official, earning him an initial yellow card, followed rapidly by a second as he continued unabated.
Finally, back to the football. Ashridge took the lead on 63 minutes as Reg once again got on the end of Antonio's corner (this time from the right), and this time planted his header across the keeper and into the right hand corner. An angry Hearts team fought back well and looked like grabbing a point when a player rounded two Ashridge defenders on the Hearts right, before poking a shot inside Joe's near post; but Ashridge were not done, and Antonio was played in on the right edge of the box by a neat pass from Dan, rounded one player on the by-line before cutting back inside past another and getting in a shot, which beat the keeper but struck the near post, before breaking across goal where Reg was on hand to slot into the empty net. Ashridge held out for the final five minutes without any undue alarms for their second successive 4-3 win.
A shame that what had been a good contest between the two teams was to some degree spoiled; it's important sometimes for those involved (particularly those over 18) to remember that this is supposed to be a bit of fun on a Saturday morning. A good lesson for the boys too to see the consequences that can follow from arguing with the official, as the lack of discipline ultimately cost the visitors in this game. To the positives: two assists for both Bertie and Antonio, the latter featuring particularly well in a strong attacking partnership with Reg; great (though strange) to see Ashridge posing a major threat from corners as a result of Antonio's great delivery and Reg's ability to get on the end of them. Good supporting work from Dan and Jack G, and generally good scrapping when needed by the whole of the back four (including Will at right back in the second period). A very obvious star player today - not only for the four goals but for an all-round display which caused the opposition no end of headaches - the recognition goes to Reg.