Sending-off mars excellent cup win
Ashford United Under-18s came from behind to beat Hendon 2-1 and reach the Ryman Youth League Cup final at Homelands on Thursday. They now meet Staines at Gillingham’s Priestfield Stadium. The boys are chasing two trophies, having already reached the semi-finals of the Kent County Cup. They face a trip to Sittingbourne on Sunday, February 28. Hendon, who conceded ground advantage due to problems staging the tie, went ahead on the half hour before Luke Eldridge put United level three minutes before the break. Clark Woodcock hit the second-half winner, United also hitting a post, before having Tom Draper sent-off for a second yellow card. The youngster, injured in the challenge which earned him his first caution two minutes earlier, had removed his shirt as he walked to the bench after being substituted, only to pick up a second booking. Manager Jason Whitmore said: “It was a controversial decision and I am writing to the Ryman League and the Football Association to seek clarification. “It’s a fantastic achievement by the boys who are all first years. “It was a real step-up for the boys from playing in the Kent Youth League but they have proved themselves good enough.”
“We were 1-0 down against Lordswood and won 5-1, 1-0 down at Newport Isle of Wight and won 2-1 with the last kick of extra time and then 2-0 down at Dunston and won in injury time.
“I don’t want to speak too soon – Salisbury will be tough – but I think we can do it. Days like Saturday remind me why I still play football – for the love of the game.
“Nothing comes close to making my Football League debut against Blackburn but the Dunston game brought it all back.
“The buzz was amazing and to get to Wembley would top off a good non-league career.
“I’ve had a lot of ops on my body. I was 33 a couple of weeks ago and beginning to feel it a little bit.
“But after Saturday, I just want to keep playing for as long as I can.”
Ashford can close to within six points of Southern Counties East leaders Hollands & Blair if they win their four games in hand.
Danny Lye’s men host Beckenham on Saturday (3pm) and Rochester on Tuesday (7.45pm) before travelling to Salisbury in the Vase.
Phillips said: “We’ve still got a chance of winning the league and we’re in the semifinals of the Kent Senior Trophy but I put Wembley over anything else.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing for a nonleague player.
“A lot of people play their whole career in the Football League and don’t get the chance to play at Wembley, so it would be amazing.
“Everyone’s thinking about it but Lyesey is keeping our feet on the ground.”
Ashford substitute Mikey Dalton makes use of his fresh legs