The Hillians were looking to build on an away clean sheet in the Isthmian League last time out when they travelled to promotion contenders Ashford United. It was a slow start from both teams with the first real chances not occurring until the 13th minute. Some neat football from Hill saw Lewis Finney away down the left, he had Dan Perry lurking in the box waiting for a tap in but he couldn’t get his cross past the Ashford defenders and that set up a home counter attack where on loan Dover man George Nikaj tested Will Huffer for the first time this afternoon but it was a solid low save from the HuffMan. Hillians had made a confident start to this one and they fashioned another opening when Kieran Rowe slipped Dan Perry in behind on the right but his fierce shot zipped across the face of goal and wide of the far post. You can always count on some Hillians defensive drama to keep you on your toes and they certainly did here, we gave it away at the back before Will Huffer came and missed it but the resulting shot was somehow clawed off the line by the retreating Huffer to save Hillians blushes. The home side were starting to grow in confidence, a cross from the right was flicked on and it landed at the far post where Will Huffer was once again tested with a fierce volley but he grabbed it safely at the second attempt. Just as you were starting to feel Ashford were growing on top, the Hillians took the lead. It was a lovely team move from front to back for Hill, with Max Miller playing a delightful ball through the heart of the defence to Lewis Finney who made no mistake in slotting comfortably past Jacob Russell to give the Hill the lead. As has happened so often this season, we take the lead but fail to hang onto it for any length of time. Just 7 minutes past before the hosts were level. Jay Lovett will of been hopping mad at yet another defensive shambles from his team, Brad Santos did initially well to intercept a through ball but instead of clearing his lines he went and lost the ball in his box and Danny Parish made him pay, firing hard and low across Huffer to restore parity. That equaliser got the home tails up, George Nikaj breezed past Dan Cadman down the right and his cross was flicked wide of the near post in a let off for the Hillians. The first half finished in a bit of end to end fashion, Connor Tighe forced Jacob Russell into beating away his long range effort before at the other end, George Nikaj once again waltzed through our back line before bending an effort just over to end the half.
As starts to a second half go, Burgess Hill made the perfect one. A tactical tweak at HT saw Max Miller move over to the left hand side and he immediately caused chaos, his teasing cross saw Bradley Simms almost score an OG, Jacob Russell managed to keep that out but only as far as Dan Perry who tucked home his 18th goal of the season to restore the Hillians lead. Hillians were well on top and looking for a killer 3rd goal, once again Max Miller was causing problems down the left, his cross to the far post was headed back across goal by Martyn Box, both Dan Perry and Connor Tighe were waiting for it but they both left it to each other and Ashford managed to clear. Ashford were trying to get a foothold in the game back, the goalscorer Parish once again laying siege on Huffers goal but this time Huffer kept him out to preserve the lead. Chances were coming thick and fast at both ends now, Martyn Box had a crack from 25 yards which was destined for the bottom corner before it struck the huge frame of Liam Friend before down the other end, Parish again tested Huffer but the saves were getting better and better from the GK to keep us in the lead. The pressure was starting to mount on Hill, Will Huffer dropped a cross to Gary Lockyer but made up for it with a tremendous point blank save. You felt the Hillians always needed a third to seal the win, Lewis Finney stung Jacob Russell’s palms before the rebound came to Martyn Box who again forced Russell into a flying save. Will Huffer was seemingly on a one man mission to win us the game, Johan Ter Horst was the next man to wonder how he hadn’t scored, producing an incredible save to keep us ahead. It was one way traffic and with still over 10 minutes to go you just felt a goal was coming, Huffer again thwarting Danny Parish with possibly the save of the season but he was receiving little to no help from his weak back line and eventually he run out of wonder saves to keep digging us out of the mire. Ashford deservedly equalised but the goal was so avoidable. Liam Friend HEADED the ball from the halfway line and that seemingly utterly bamboozled Harry Pollard who ran in treacle and let Gary Lockyer get in behind him and one of the leagues deadliest finishers showed no mercy as he dinked the ball over a helpless Will Huffer to get Ashford level and now they smelt blood. Could Will Huffers one man heroics get Hill a point? He was still making wonder save after wonder, as the clock struck 90, being helped by some wayward home finishing to be fair, but the Hill were sinking deeper and deeper and getting more and more desperate and in the 7th minute of the 4 minutes (🥲) added on, Will Huffers heroics were to be to no avail. Martyn Box let Gil Carvalho drive at him and into the box before he cut inside and his took a wicked deflection off a Hillian man, sending the ball spinning and skipping across the box and eventually settling in the far corner to spark wild celebrations for Ashford and heartache for Will Huffer and Co.
After taking the lead twice, a point would’ve felt like a missed opportunity considering our dominance at the start of the second 45, yet we leave Ashford empty handed, a result which has happened far too often this season.
Next up, we are still unable to return home so our match against Chichester City on Saturday will take place at Three Bridges, 1pm KO.