Shawfield Stadium, Ash
FA Vase First Qualifying Round
Attendance: 80 (estimate)
Match Rating: 3
For the opening round in this season’s FA Vase, I decided it was time to dip into Combined Counties League territory for the first time in 2015, with a match that had the ingredients for a giantkilling, with the team struggling in a lower division at home.
The Shawfield Stadium is about a 15 minute walk from Ash railway station, and is a smart, neat and tidy ground. Spectators enter behind one of the goals, with cover extending from the turnstile to one of the corners, whilst to the other side of the turnstile is the tea bar built into the larger clubhouse building. Along one of the lengths, a small modern metallic all-seater stand is positioned towards one corner, with just hard standing around the rest of the pitch. A tall hedge with trees behind makes an attractive background to one of the lengths. The 28 page programme was basic in terms of content and layout but was just about adequate in informing readers of the background to the game.
Both of today’s teams are members of the Combined Counties League, although Ash United were languishing at the foot of Division One, having lost all three of their league games, whereas Windsor had made a solid if unspectacular to their campaign in the Premier Division, winning two and drawing two of their five league games so far.
On a mainly overcast and slightly chilly afternoon, the Windsor players took to the field in bibs, to cover their Union Jack styled shirts in club colours of red, green and white which clashed with the home team strip. Windsor certainly dominated the early stages of the game, going close to scoring on several occasions, although Ash managed to have a couple of shots on goal themselves. Their task suddenly became much harder on 29 minutes, when Dixon was shown a second yellow card for sarcastically demanding a yellow card following a foul by a Windsor player. He had looked an accident waiting to happen up to that point, committing a series of reckless tackles and not even a couple of warnings from the referee could persuade Dixon to calm down before it was too late. As it turned out, losing a man had little obvious negative impact on the home side, if anything they continued to grow more into the game and looked as likely to score as the visitors, and it was to Ash’s immense credit that they went into the half time interval on level terms.
Into the second half and there was little to tell between the two teams, as Windsor disappointed with the lack of cohesion and quality in their game. Ash still looked capable of pulling off a shock, until Windsor took the lead on 69 minutes, when Kirby headed home a corner. The goal did give Windsor a little more impetus, but still Ash looked like they had a goal in them. They had one final opportunity to draw level on the stroke of full-time when their keeper came up for a corner, but after the ball was headed over the bar, Windsor went straight down the other end and Harvey found the net with a low cross shot into the far bottom corner.
So in the end, Windsor progressed to the next round as expected, and although they probably did deserve to go through based on the number of chances they created, they did not play well today and Ash gave them an almighty scare. Ash deserve enormous credit for playing so well despite playing for over an hour with ten men, as well as the poor form they came into the game with. Indeed, Ash may well have got something from this game had Dixon not lost his head and let his teammates down.