Rathbone pulls strings as Ashton lose record
UNBEATEN Division Four leaders Ashton Boys Under-16s suffered their first defeat of the season at the hands of a strong Lawrence Weston side, who managed to cling on for victory thanks largely to a Kieron Baker brace and an outstanding midfield performance by star man Jake Rathbone.
Lawrence Weston got the game underway and, less than two minutes in, found themselves behind. Jordan Parry's driven low cross from the left was allowed to run across goal by two Lawrence Weston defenders, and Marley Bates kept his composure as he controlled the ball at the back post before smashing it into the roof of the net from three yards out.
The home side weren't in front for long, though, as three minutes later Rathbone's delightful floated free-kick from just inside the Ashton half was met by Baker, who steered his 16-yard header beyond keeper Jamie Howard and into the far corner.
In a frantic opening spell, Lawrence Weston snatched the lead nine minutes in when Rathbone charged down the right wing before cutting inside and making his way along the byline into the Ashton box, where his driven cross cannoned off keeper Howard and in.
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The game seemed to settle down, but it wasn't long before the ball was in the back of the net once more. Montel Riches' through-ball released Baker and his 20-yard effort was tipped on to the post by the advancing Howard. However the striker's momentum carried him beyond the grounded keeper who, despite his best efforts, couldn't reach the rebound before Baker and the striker had an open net to tap the ball into, giving the visitors a 3-1 lead.
Ashton responded well, Aidan Kee's 45-yard free-kick causing the Lawrence Weston defenders problems as it looked to be heading on target at the back post with two attackers queuing up to help it on. But, in the nick of time, Gerald Pospischil managed to get an important head to the ball and turn it away from the danger zone.
Baker could have completed his hat-trick on 27 minutes when he was again released by Rathbone, but the striker's attempt to curl the ball into the far corner from just inside the box was tipped wide by Howard. With five minutes of the first half left, Baker turned provider. Captain Rathbone picked out the Lawrence Weston front man, who drove down the left side of the box before darting along the byline, from where he cut the ball back and Montel Riches arrived to turn it in from eight yards out.
Baker had the chance to make it 5-1 and complete his hat-trick on the stroke of half-time when he was found by a clever poked pass from Jordan Bebbington. But with the Ashton defence busy appealing for an offside flag which never came, the Lawrence Weston striker fired his close-range effort over the bar from a tight angle.
Ashton had been totally outplayed in the first half, with Rathbone dominating midfield, while the home defenders struggled to cope with the movement of Baker, who was well supported by Montel and Jereil Riches as well as Bebbington, while big centre-half Lewis Bagley cut out any aerial threat posed by the hosts.
Ashton looked a different side in the opening stages of the second period as they pinned back Lawrence Weston in their quest to overcome the 4-1 deficit. In their attempts to push forward, they almost left themselves exposed at the back, too, Baker appearing to be clean through three minutes in after being found by Jaxson Marsh. However, back came Josh Cyphus to nip it off the striker's toes and Howard picked up the loose ball.
Ashton then really started to dominate, with Callum Simpkin twice firing narrowly wide before having a header cleared off the line by Charlie Parker. The ball was put straight back into the box from Parker's clearance where it was again headed past the visitors' keeper Jack Harper, but this time Ashton captain Ryan Clarke's attempt struck the post.
Parker then made another vital clearance for his side after Ashley Sandford's flick-on from Clarke's long throw was hooked goalwards by Bates from deep inside a very crowded penalty area, but once more Parker was on hand to prevent the ball from sneaking in at the back post.
The pressure from the home side finally paid off 24 minutes into the half when they pulled a goal back to make it 4-2. Lawrence Weston failed to clear a corner properly as Rathbone tried to run the ball out of the box instead of clearing it upfield. It proved a costly error of judgement as the ball was stolen off him by Josh Doidge, who fired it beyond Harper towards the far corner where, in a desperate attempt to prevent the ball from finding the back of the net, defender Joe Brown could only turn the on-target effort further into the net.
Ashton continued to press in search of another goal and, four minutes later, struck again when Kris Baron's superb 25-yard strike flew over Harper's head and in under the bar to cut the deficit to one goal.
Ashton kept on pouring forward in search of the all-important equaliser and it looked as though Simpkin was going to get it with a few minutes to go as he took the ball into the area. But before he could get his shot away, in came Bagley with a brilliant sliding challenge to steal it from the striker.
In committing men forward, the home side were almost undone a minute from time when Rathbone went steaming in behind after a long ball from Jereil Riches caught Ashton short at the back, but again Cyphus was on hand to save his team as he used his body well to force Rathbone away from goal.
Despite their best efforts, including pegging Lawrence Weston back in their own half for the majority of the second period, Ashton couldn't find the equaliser and the referee's whistle brought the game to a close with the visitors clinging on for a hard-fought win.
Ashton Boys: Jamie Howard, Jordan Parry, Josh Cyphus, Aidan Kee, Luke Harding, Stu O'Connell, Marley Bates, Ryan Clarke, Kris Baron, Ashley Sandford, Laurie Cooper, Joe Brown, Callum Simpkin.
Lawrence Weston Colts: Jack Harper, Jordan Bebbington, Jake Rathbone, Charlie Parker, Kieron Baker, Gerald Pospischil, Lewis Bagley, Jereil Riches, Montel Riches, Josh Doidge, Jordan Holly, Jaxson Marsh.