A solid defensive performance was the foundation for a superb 3-1 victory for Ashville in the Edward Case Cup first round replay against Maine Road.
Ashville couldn't of asked for a better start with Joe Dulson netting with just over a minute played. Ben Greenop flicked the ball forward for the young winger who placed a composed finish last Livesey to give Villa the lead.
Half chances came and went for Ashville who remained untested at the back besides one mis-hit cross which Dixon was equal to.
The visitors had a glorious opportunity to double the lead on 18 minutes when Courtnell lifted in a great cross to Greenop who had acres of space ahead of him. Livesey was well off his line as he attempted to close down Greenop and the pressure worked as the Ashville striker hit his effort straight at him.
A little over ten minutes later and Greenop had a chance at redemption. This time it was great work by Lewis Moynes, winning his aerial duel before splitting the centre halves with a brilliant ball for Greenop who raced through before firing over.
The hosts were still offering very little and Ashville took advantage of the domination on 35 minutes to double the lead. A superbly executed high press saw Maldon win the ball back before laying it off to Moynes who struck back across goal and into the bottom corner. It was Moynes's first goal of the season and you could hear the relief and elation in his roar as the ball hit the back of the net.
It wasn't until five minutes into the second half that the hosts started to really threaten the Ashville goal. A corner falling at the back post where the free header was somehow headed wide.
The game remained open and end to end but between Ashville's best defensive performance of the season so far and Livesey turning into prime Manuel Neur, neither side could create any solid goal scoring chances.
That was until the 70th minute when Dulson got his second and Ashville's third and it was simply majestic. The young winger picked the ball up on the left, beat three men to get into the box and looked to set up a curling finish into the far corner. His route was blocked off so he checked back inside, surrounded by defenders, turned out of the human shield and was face to face with Livesey. This didn't faze Dulson who calmly chipped it over the sprawling Livesey to finish a move his gaffer described as "Messi-esque".
Dulson has never scored a senior hat trick and he was cruelly denied one just 6 minutes later. Greenop worked his way into a crossing position on the right, firing a low cross along the six yard box where Dulson came racing in at the back post to slot past Livesey for a third time. The offside flag went up against the teenager despite being a solid 10 yards onside when the ball was played.
As frustrating as that was for Ashville, the performance levels didn't dip and they continued to dominate until 9 minutes from time. The hosts first open play effort of the second half was dragged wide.
Two minutes later and Maine Road were awarded a very dubious penalty. Farrall making a superb but robust tackle just inside the area and the referee awarded the penalty. To say it was contentious would be flattering on the officials and the decision caused uproar amongst the away side.
Nevertheless, up stepped Hacking. The winger went left but Dixon read him like a book and made an excellent save. Belattar was quickest to the rebound though and he slotted home to give Maine Road a slither of late hope.
And with three minutes to go Ashville could of wrapped it up with Ben Greenop. The striker found himself wide open as defensive appeals for offside were waved away. He arguably had too much time, his attempt to slot it to Livesey's right unsuccessful as the keeper got enough of a tie on it to concede a corner instead of a goal.
With five minutes of added time, Ashville went into game management mode but that didn't stop them from trying to increase the lead. Ben Greenop was through on goal, out came Livesey who hacked him down on the edge of the area for an Ashville free kick. The Maine Road keeper escaped with a yellow despite being the last man and denying a clear goal scoring opportunity with no defender close enough to stop Greenop slotting the ball home. Another frustrating decision but it wouldn't matter as Ashville saw the remaining minutes out to progress to the second round.
Ashville will now travel to Barnton in the second round, the date TBC.
Ashville will take on Maine Road again this weekend in the league and what will be the final meeting between the two sides this season. Kick off is 3pm and tickets can be bought online via the Ashville website.