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Derby Day Defeat For Ashville

Ashville lost an eventful Wirral derby 1-0 away at Cammell Laird 1907.

Just over two weeks since their last meeting, Ashville and Cammell Laird locked horns once again in a fiery Wirral derby that was settled via a penalty kick. The two sides drew 0-0 back at Ray Parker Stadium, both sides having had a man sent off in a cagey, somewhat subdued, affair.

This fixture didn't take long to get ignited though with challenges flying in early doors leading to a handful of free kicks. This was going to be a proper derby. The first real chance of the game came about in the 11th minute. Ashville won back to back free kicks and it was the second one that almost gifted them an early lead. Josh Maldon was fouled around 20 yards out before getting up to take the free kick himself, his low whipped effort bounced right in front of OLoughlin in the Lairds goal but the stopper was just about able to save it with his left foot.

The first half was almost all Ashville as the away side looked to make amends for Saturday's 6-0 drubbing at Stafford Town. There was only 15 minutes on the clock when they would get their next great opportunity when the slippy surface saw Marcus James slip as he went to control the ball allowing Ashville debutant, Ben Glover to get in behind. Glover marched towards the area before snatching at his shot which went comfortably over.

The Cammells kept themselves in the game however, although that looked like it was going to change on 24 minutes when OLoughlin was sent for an early bath. A clearance from Connor Courtnell, the Ashville man sent off in the reverse fixture, gave Glover another chance to get in behind forcing OLoughlin to come and clear the ball. Glover got there first, knocked the ball past OLoughlin and was subsequently taken down by the Lairds keeper outside the area and referee Liam Ashcroft was given no choice but to show the red card. With no keeper on the bench and not wanting to use up a sub, the gloves were donned by Dominic Hoppe who, incidentally, was the man in the sticks for Lairds in the reverse fixture at Ray Parker Stadium.

Neither side really created much in terms of clear cut chances after the red card. Cammell Laird were nothing short of excellent in their tactical discipline, not only nullifying a cascading Ashville attack but also putting their visitors under more pressure than when they had 11 on the field. The game turned into a midfield battle and it was one that Laird were winning. That being said though, the next big chance of the game once again fell to Ashville. Tom Davies firing a cross from just inside the home sides half and finding Courtnell at the back post but the auxiliary winger was stretching for the header and he couldn't steer it under the crossbar.

With five minutes to go until the half time break Ashville fashioned one of their best counter attacks of the season. Josh Maldon cleared the ball up to Glover who killed the ball deftly into the path of Lewis Moynes who sprinted in behind the defence. He couldn't quite go all the way however and on the edge of the box he set up Glover via a cheeky little back heel pass. Glover took the strike first time, seeing it whistle about a foot over the bar.

The sides went in level at the break which was testament to Cammell Laird's effort and commitment to the game plan despite being down to ten. Ashville were just as impressive, all that was missing was a goal for all their hard work. The second half would tell a different story however...

Ashville did start brightly, creating their first chance after just 2 minutes when a looping clearance was taken down expertly by Glover who then rounded Hoppe but the stand in keeper recovered well to shut down any shooting angles and Glover eventually ran out of grass.

The chances had been very Ashville heavy up to this point, not to say Lairds weren't doing much in front of goal but more that they were met by an equally stubborn Villa defence. The home side would see their first clear chance of the game come on 49 minutes however when the evergreen Kieran Hamm headed just over from a free kick. From that point on you could feel the tide turning. The Ashville players had abandoned the ground play that had worked so well in the first half in favour of playing the long ball and Lairds dealt with that comfortably which led to a growing in confidence.

Subsequently, it was Lairds who started to play on the front foot. Winning corners and keeping Ashville pushed back into their own half for majority of the second half. The Cammell's next big chance came on 55 minutes when Nathan Johnston tried his luck with the wet surface but pulled his long ranger wide of the target.

Johnston would be the centre of attention just 5 minutes later but for entirely different reasons. A long ball forward by Maldon was instantly cleared by the Lairds defence with the clearance finding its way to Johnston who took a heavy touch. The touch then fell in the path of Josh Maldon who went to clear the ball and Johnston, attempting to make up for his error, lunged in to retrieve the ball, taking Maldon clean out with the follow through. A yellow card was issued but Johnston can certainly count himself lucky not to of seen red. He had every right to go for the ball but his studs were showing, he was a little high and there is an argument he went in with excessive force. Ashville were absolutely right to be furious with the decision. Maldon walked away from the challenge after treatment and finished the game , albeit with a limp. And that is why fully sized shin pads are so important.

The incident didn't alter the flow of the game in any way though and it was Lairds who were straight back up the pitch causing Ashville problems. Once again it was Kieran Hamm who would test Ebbrell after being fed in by substitute James Farr. Hamm couldn't beat Ebbrell though instead seeing his shot go straight at the Villa keeper.

Both sides traded blows from corner kicks over the next 15 minutes but neither side created much of note. That would all change in the 78th minute though as there was more controversy on the way. A throw in from the right hand side was missed by everyone before the ball hit an unsuspecting Connor Courtnell on the arm after a flick on by the forward he was marking. The referee gave the penalty with no hesitation which seemed a harsh decision but what was fair was to say that Lairds had earned a bit of luck. Kieran Cartwright duly stepped up and sent Ebbrell the wrong way to give Lairds a deserved lead.

Ashville did play with a bit more of an impetus after the goal although they were met by a resilient and stubborn Cammell Laird defence. They would get a couple more chances to draw level however. The first of those coming just two minutes after the penalty when a sustained Villa attack eventually saw the ball at Glovers feet. The striker put one up in the air for Courtnell who knocked it down for substitute Kasey Smith inside the area. The midfielder hitting his volley on the turn but putting it just over the bar.

In the 90th minute, just as 5 minutes added time were indicated Ashville won themselves a corner. Hartley whipped it in to the back post narrowly over Shaun Farrall's head before hitting Courtnell. The loose ball was prodded goalwards by Thomas Quinn but was blocked on the line along with appeals of handball but truthfully the area was that cluttered it was almost impossible to tell who or where the ball hit. It was true bodies on the line stuff but it wasn't over as a second attempt by Josh Maldon was also blocked, this one absolutely definitely by the feet of Ryan Smith.

Lairds still had time to almost nick a second three minutes into added time. An attempted ball across goal by Richard Ley was too close to Ebbrell but an awkward bobble took the Villa keeper by surprise and came off his chest into the path of Joe Caswell. Ebbrell recovered superbly to spread himself and force Caswell into snatching at the chance and pulling his effort wide.

And that would be the final meaningful action of the final Wirral derby of the season. Cammell Laird deservedly coming away with the points after a spirited performance against the odds, a victory which confirms they'll still be playing North West Counties First Division South football next season. As for Ashville it's now back to back defeats with only a handful of games left to secure safety. Villa sit only four points above the drop zone with 5 games left to play, with two games in hand.

Ashville are next in action on Thursday night when they travel to fellow strugglers, Winsford United, who we learned this week are grieving the loss of their talented young player, Ross Aikenhead. Everyone at Ashville Football Club sends their most sincere condolences to everyone at Winsford United and to all of Ross' family and friends at this extremely difficult time.

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