On the 7th March 2020 Northwood FC hosted Ashford Town in a bottom of the table battle in the BetVictor Isthmian South Central Division. Before the game the two teams sat down the bottom of the league with Northwood 1 place off bottom and Ashford 17th but this didn’t reflect the quality or desire shown on the day.
On a cloudy but warm spring day at the AcreTweed Stadium, it was a tale of two halves as Ashford took the lead on the brink of halftime but Northwood responded late in the second half with two goals in quick concession to snatch all three points from the grasp of Ashford. Both teams showed quality, fight and passion but it was Northwood who came out on top who continued to play their football and capitalised when Ashford were caught napping.
It was Ashford who set the tone for the game and came out looking dangerous. They knocked the ball around with intent and purpose in the opening minutes and in the 8th minute a corner taken by Hafid Bounyafe found a towering Max Webb who rose well and bulleted a header wide.
Two minutes later Northwood goalkeeper Tyla Dickinson was called into action on his debut as he pulled off a smart save to divert Aaron Petch’s long range dipping effort around the post.
Ashford continued to apply the pressure and had a few half-chances here and there but nothing goal-worthy. The woods’ defensive resilience was working and they continued to weather the early pressure always looking to patiently knock the ball around trying to find a way through the Ashford defence.
Northwood gradually began to find their feet and had a few promising attacks of their own. Radu Stefanoaica was beginning to make an impression on the left flank with a couple of useful runs plus crosses and both sides were looking to break whenever possible as the half wore on.
Sadly, the home side were forced into making an early change in the 38th minutes as Stefanoaica was unable to continue due to a knock to his ankle which was frustrating for Northwood as he was starting to find his rhythm. Lopes came on and took his place.
The Visitors picked up from where they left off earlier in the half and continued to cause problems for the home side. Their determination was rewarded deep into extra time as an in-swinging corner from Aaron Petch was met by skipper Max Webb who rose high like a salmon again at the far post but this time made no mistake. Debut keeper Dickinson had no chance stopping it and Ashford took the lead right before the half-time whistle.
Northwood came out after half time looking surprisingly calm considering they were a goal down and this must’ve played to their advantage as they were gaining more and more momentum as time went on. On the other hand, Ashford never looked settled in the second half and couldn’t find the flow they had in the first half.
Ashford had their chance to increase the gap between them and the home side because on the 55th minute Mario Embalo did well to get into the box and clip the ball over the advancing Dickinson at the near post, only for the ball to spin and clip the outside of the post and go out.
Ashford would come to rue the chance that wasn’t capitalised on as just after the hour-mark substitute Ahmed Elsahib was quickly into action as he opened his Northwood account with the equaliser when he forced the ball home after Sharman’s shot was blocked following a slick move involving Toti, Hart and Jones.
Ashford were then forced into making a change on 69 minutes because William Boye was seriously struggling after what appeared to be a clash of heads resulting in a concussion. Concerns grew for the condition of the left-back with an ambulance being called to the ground; good news arriving later in the evening that Boyes was on the mend in hospital.
After the restart it was Northwood who pressed on after gaining good momentum from their first goal. The comeback was completed in the 72nd minute when Elsahib set up Sharman after the latter had combined with Lopes before slotting the ball beyond former Woods keeper Aaron Bufton and make it 2-1.
The game was far from over though as it was fast-paced, end-to-end stuff but Ashford were growing increasingly desperate and they started throwing men forward. Woods almost put the game to bed in the 85th minute as they exploited the gaps with a quick break but Hart was denied by a superb point-blank save from Bufton after good work from Lopes.
The final few moments were played out with both sides coming close to scoring as Lopes was involved once again as he advanced on the Ashford box and shot narrowly wide as he chose to goal for with the option of playing in Hart who was alongside him.
The match was becoming increasingly hectic as it entered four minutes of added time and Embalo set Bounyafe up with a nice layoff who then rattled the Northwood woodwork with a rocket from outside the box. The mayhem wasn’t over yet though as the ball fell back to Embalo in the box who managed to get a snapshot off which looked to be going in when Dickinson makes an unreal diving save to virtually secure all three points.
The last action of the game was with Lopes who shot from distance into unguarded Ashford net after Bufton had come up for a corner but is nowhere near the target.
As the game blew up Romario Hart and Joe Noakes had a big coming together causing the usual non-league ‘handbags’ to come out with all the players coming together. Both players were cautioned for their parts to play.
In the end it was a deserved three points for the Woods who now come out of the relegation zone after a great comeback in this relegation dog fight.
Highlights of the game can be found here.
Northwood FC: Tyla Dickinson, Luke Jones, Jaden Sharman, Haluna Masembe, Craig Carby, Dave Thomas©, Radu Stefanoaica (Eric Lopes, 38 Mins), Marcelo Graca, Romario Hart, Lucas Toti (Ryan Phillips, 82 Mins), Mihai-Andrei Chiriac (Ahmed Elsahib, 60 Mins).
Subs not used: Excellence Muhemba, Yiannis Constantinou.
Ashford Town: Aaron Bufton, Rylan Myers (Kelvin Adjei, 76 Mins), William Boye (Joe Noakes, 68 Mins), Tommy Brunton, Samad Kazi, Darryl Harrison, Hafid Bounyafe, Max Webb©, Daniel Brown (Sam Humphreys, 46 Mins), Mario Embalo, Aaron Petch.
Subs not used: Elijah Ogunseye, Joe Green.