It was an eventful first game of the season for Villa and our hosts, Eccleshall, as a controversial penalty and a last minute equaliser saw both teams walk away with a point.
Villa started the game strongest but couldn't create any clear cut chances but a fourth minute corner, swung into the near post, was challenged by players of both sides with an Eccleshall head deflecting a goal bound effort into said post and out for another corner. The Eagles defended the second corner much better, getting the ball well and truly clear.
It was from here that the game started to get scrappy, Eccleshall putting in some very robust challenges, yet no cards were dished out when one could debate there should of been.
We got to the halftime break with the scores still deadlocked and the game still rather unbelievably card-less. A good competitive half tainted by some questionable applications of the laws of the game.
Villa's frustrations with the officiating would only get worse just minutes into the second half however. The Eagles finally found a way through the Villa back line, who had been tremendous up to this point, where what seemed to be a perfectly timed challenge by Shaun Farrall was deemed a foul by the referee and a penalty given. Benton stepped up for the hosts and clipped his penalty in off the post to give The Eagles the lead against the run of play.
Just five minutes later and Villa were finding pathways through the Eccleshall defence with a bit more ease, this time though the cross found the head of Dulson who couldn't keep his header down.
By this point our hosts had already begun time wasting tactics but that didn't stop Villa from searching for an equaliser. It was nearly worth the wait though as Danny Hardman, who impressed through pre season, tried to take matters into his own hands with a scorching effort from 30 yards which needed the keeper to tip it over the bar to keep the hosts ahead.
The game then descended into a scrappy battle, Eccleshall doing everything they could to preserve their lead. Both sides had some half chances but neither really came close to scoring until the 83rd minute when a Max Williams free kick from the right was headed onto the bar. The rebound fell on the half volley to Maldon, who put the ball just over the bar from 8 yards out.
From this point on it was all out attack from Villa who got another opportunity in the dying embers of the game.
Eccleshall had already been warned about Max Williams' wicked deliveries but they didn't learn. This time though the delivery was absolutely perfect as it floated just over a box full of heads and over the keeper into the far corner causing pandemonium among the away support and the bench went up in raptures.
It was a wonderful and well deserved point although manager Gary Jones felt we should of walked away with 3 points. When asked in his post match interview, which can be viewed in full on our YouTube channel, the gaffer said "Yeah I think we should of, when you look at the chances we created".
When talking about the penalty decision the gaffer added; "None of their players appealed. It was never a penalty, Shaun Farrall clearly won the ball".
The gaffer then went on to praise the attitude of the players for fighting back for the point; "The lads stuck in, dug deep. They're a young side and they want to learn and they want to develop and they want to work hard for each other"
A point on the road for Villa then to start the season and a very good performance to build upon against a side fancied to be up in the play off places this season.
A big thank you to Eccleshall for their hospitality and we look forward to the reverse fixture later in the season.
Ashville are next in action on Tuesday night when we host Droylsden with The Bloods' Revival looking to continue steamrolling ahead after a convincing 3-0 win against Abbey Hulton on Saturday. Tickets for this fixture can be bought now on the website under the club shop tab. See you there!