Drama to last whistle
“Devastated but proud” was assistant manager John Ovard’s verdict after nine-man Ashford United exited the Macron Southern Counties League Challenge Cup after this controversial quarter-final, second leg tie at Eltham on Tuesday night.
Trailing 1-0 from the first meeting a fortnight ago, United stood only three minutes from going through on away goals, when former Homelands defender Lee Coburn hit the winner, his second of the night
United boss Paul Chambers refused to comment at the end after seeing Adam Cuthbert and Liam Whiting both sent-off, while substitute Sam Fisher was red carded after the final whistle following comments to referee Jason Down.
Mr Down also brandished seven yellow cards and Ovard said: “I was furious about how we were treated and how the officials went about their business.”
Consistency seemed to be at the heart of United’s argument. Cuthbert was dismissed for a challenge Mr Down deemed reckless, despite claims he played the ball, while home ERITH TOWN ASHFORD UTD defenders Danny Moore and Danny Akers, guilty of similar challenges on United skipper Gary Clarke and Kieran Byrne, were only yellow carded.
Ovard added: “The tackle on Gary was two-footed, their player swears in the face of the referee and walks away but only gets booked.
“Adam blocks a shot on the edge of the box, the ball is on the floor, he hasn’t lunged or jumped into a tackle and he makes a split-second decision to send him off.”
Ovard, who expects to be reported for comments to Mr Down at the final whistle, added: “I didn’t swear but told him I thought his performance was a disgrace. He won’t talk to you or apologise, he’ll make his report, we will have to swallow it and pay the fine.”
United found themselves a goal down after 23 minutes, Coburn heading home unmarked from a corner.
Cuthbert equalised 13 minutes later but was dismissed soon after. United shrugged off that setback to take a 2-1 lead two minutes before the break through Sam Conlon.
Erith’s Conrad Lee hit a free-kick against the United bar a minute after the restart and then equalised to put the home side ahead 3-2 on aggregate.
Substitute Michael Smissen came off the bench to set up Conlon’s second 17 minutes from the end, before Whiting was dismissed after a second booking for dissent.
Erith thought they were through 4-3 on aggregate when Calum O’Shea drilled an effort past Mant in the first minute of stoppage-time to make it 3-3 on the night, only for Smissen to score United’s fourth three minutes later.
In extra-time, Mickelbrough (twice) and Clarke went close to getting a fifth, only for Coburn to break his former team-mates’ resistance.
Ashford’s Adam Cuthbert was one of three United players red-carded on Tuesday night