Ashfield 2 Forth Wanderers 4
Forth completed the double over Ashfield with a hard fought 4-2 victory at Saracen Park yesterday. The Wanderers team was bolstered by the addition of Jason Corbett, who slotted in at right back after his loan deal from Thorniewood was rubber stamped on Saturday morning.
Forth began the game brightly and were ahead within two minutes after a moment of magic from Willie McLaren. A long free kick was played into the box toward McLaren standing with his back to goal and his decision to attempt an overhead kick outwitted Michael Duke in the Ashfield goal and the ball nestled in the back of the net. Martin Hannaway was next to try his luck but didn’t catch the ball sweetly and his shot flew over. McLaren came close again on 10 minutes after Barry McGeechan picked him out but the angle was tight and Duke blocked. Stevie Kane then nodded a Hannaway ball into the path of McLaren after 17 minutes but again Duke managed to effect the block and avert the danger.
Ashfield began to come more into the game at this juncture and their use of the long throw in particular was causing problems for the Forth defence. The hosts had a good spell with shots on target from Conor Johnstone,Ross Scullion and Michael Giblin, all of which were comfortably held by David Cherrie in the Wanderers goal. Cherrie was penalised for handling a pass back after 21 minutes but the free kick was wasted. At the other end, McLaren made space for himself and flashed a drive just wide as Forth rallied.
Ashfield came agonisingly close to an equaliser on 38 minutes when Johnstone played the ball in to Gary Millar whose flick looked to be heading into the top corner until Cherrie somehow managed to get his fingers to the ball and divert it over the bar. The equaliser was merely delayed however, as Ashfield levelled the scores from the resultant corner. The ball was swung over and missed by everyone until it seemed to hit a Forth defender at the back post and crawled over the line. A scrappy goal but one probably deserved on the balance of play. Boosted by this, Ashfield continued on the front foot and Giblin blasted over after good work by Johnstone on the left before Mark Huggins dragged a shot wide just prior to the half time whistle.
As happened in the first half, Forth struck early in the second with a goal engineered by the industrious Warren Grenfell. Picking up the ball just over halfway, Grenfell evaded a couple of challenges, one of which would have resulted in a free kick had he gone down, to thread the ball through to Stevie Kane in the box and the young striker finished clinically to net his first goal for the club after 49 minutes. Ashfield reacted well to this setback however and Millar had a header saved by Cherrie as they pushed for an equaliser. Forth were struggling to get out of their own half at this point and it was little surprise when John Wood curled home the leveller on 72 minutes after a sustained spell of pressure.
It could have been worse for the Wanderers a couple of minutes later when Wood raced clear on goal but Cherrie did enough to deflect the ball over the bar and keep the scores level. Forth began to exert some pressure of their own and some robust challenges from the home defence resulted in a spate of free kicks to the Wanderers. McLaren fired one straight at Duke on 77 minutes before rattling the top of the Ashfield crossbar with another free kick a minute later. Yet another free kick on 82 minutes was flighted to the back post for the onrushing Craig Gupwell to head back across Duke and into the net sparking jubilant celebrations both on the pitch and in the stand. Those celebrations were almost cut short as Ashfield hit the post just after the restart but for once lady luck was on the side of the men in red.
McLaren was finding increasing amounts of space as Ashfield pushed for an equaliser and a mazy run after 88 minutes saw Duke beat out his powerful shot although only into the path of Barry McGeechan who gleefully hammered the ball home to seal the points. Another McLaren run two minutes later saw him leave three defenders in his wake only to see his final shot go the wrong side of the post. There was still time for Joe McBride of Ashfield to be sent off for a lunge at Hannaway and this sparked a melee in which home keeper Duke was lucky not to see red for his actions but thankfully things had calmed down when the final whistle sounded a minute or so later.
An excellent three points for Forth who were not at their best for long spells but showed real character to emerge victorious. Another tough away trip awaits, away to Gartcairn who include former Wanderers Martin Harty, Yami Misanjo and Barry Canning in their ranks.
Forth team : Cherrie,S.Tait(L.Tait),Corbett(Ward),Gupwell,McMullen,Grenfell,Kane(Harty),McGeechan,