Welford ensures it ends in cheers
Manager Danny Lye described Shaun Welford’s performance as ‘unreal’ after the striker’s double led Ashford to glory in the Kent Reliance Senior Trophy at Maidstone’s Gallagher Stadium on Sunday.
United, the favourites, fell behind to a Laurence Collins goal inside two minutes but Welford had them level at the break and then headed the winner with 11 minutes remaining.
The goals were Welford’s 40th and 41st of a prolific campaign and player-boss Lye said that the 37-year-old’s appetite for the game shames men far younger than him.
Lye said: “Shaun’s desire to win is incredible. He did it all on his own up there. He just runs and runs and runs and he does it every week.
“At 37, it’s unreal what he does but it doesn’t surprise me because he just wants to win.”
Southern Counties East League leaders United went into the game having beaten Cray three times already this season but they Shaun Welford congratulated by Rory Hill after scoring the winner ASHFORD UNITED CRAY VALLEY PM were behind inside two minutes 20 seconds after keeper George Kamurasi came for but did not claim Jason Thompson’s free-kick from the left. The ball fell to Valley skipper Jamie Wood whose miscued shot fell to Laurence Collins who swept home from 12 yards. Welford threatened a swift equaliser when he headed against the post and the United top scorer was then picked out by Dave Botterill but stabbed his shot wide from close range. Cray Valley’s Aaron Rhule got in behind the United defence on 20 minutes but was unable to keep his feet and the chance went begging and six minutes later, United were level. While Cray’s defence hesitated expecting referee Ben Bowles to blow for a high challenge, Welford didn’t, running on before drilling a low shot into the bottom corner from 15 yards. Defensive errors presented Welford with two other sights at goal before the break, while Kamurasi saved well from Rhule and Cray began the second half in positive fashion, with United skipper Stuart West doing well to block from Enoch Adjei.
Adjei then sent over a terrific cross which was turned back across goal by Denzel Gayle with Francis unable to get a touch.
Ashford’s first chance of the half came just before the hour when Rory Hill’s low drive was well palmed away by Carey who then denied the same player with an equally smart save.
Moments later, Valley scorer Collins had Kamurasi scampering across his goal with a well-struck effort which drifted just wide and on 64 minutes, United defender Pat Kingwell got a vital block in to keep out Gayle’s goalbound effort.
There was a real cut-and-thrust feel to the game at this stage, even given the heat, but as the minutes ticked away, so the contest became more cagey and extra time looked likely until Welford struck.
Savage’s superb deep cross always had Cray keeper Carey struggling and when he failed to get there, it gave Welford the chance to head into an empty net.
Hill almost made it 3-1 two minutes from time when his snap shot from 15 yards hit Carey in the chest without the keeper knowing too much about it.
United’s win came at the third attempt, having lost 4-0 to Beckenham in 2013/14 and on penalties to Sheppey in last year’s final, also at the Gallagher Stadium.
Kamurasi, Savage, Walker, Botterill, West, Kingwell, Palmer, Stubbs (Stone 69mins), Welford, Goodchild, Hill. Subs: Eldridge, Williams, Lavender, Lye.
Carey, McDonagh, Smith, Wood (Gordon 69mins), Sains, Collins, Gayle, Thompson, Francis (Springett 82mins), Adjei, Rhule (Fowler, half-time). Subs: Fitzgerald, Young.
‘Shaun’s desire to win is incredible. . . At 37 it’s unreal what he does’
Ashford players and supporters celebrate after Sunday’s triumph
Ashford manager Danny Lye and coach Shaun Holland