view from the opposition
Match report: Formby v Ashville
Ashville FC came to Altcar Road's autumn sunshine for this FA Carlsberg Vase First Round tie as West Cheshire League league leaders with a formidable away record. They had won five and drawn one of their six away games, scoring a stunning 19 goals in the process. So, despite being in the higher division, Formby knew they would be in for a tough afternoon.
Ashville also brought a coachload of support, managing to outnumber the home fans. They included among their number John Dennett, the man who founded the club in 1947.
Following last Saturday's disappointing defeat at the hands of Irlam, Formby manager Jim Shirley decided to change formation in an attempt to stiffen his defence.Vinny Sheerin was given the responsibility of sitting in front of the back four with Connor Smith and Paul Speed forming a central midfield partnership. In front of them were the attacking talents of Connor Belger, Mark Kirby and Michael Boyle.
Formby kicked off attacking the Altcar Road end and inside the opening minute Smith and Speed combined to put Mark Kirby in but he tumbled over as he hit his shot. Already it was evident that the infamous Altcar Road wind would be a factor as the ball was either held up or carried forward. Formby had the wind at their backs in the first half, ominously meaning they would be playing into it, and the briight autumn glare, in the second. Both sides were adjusting to the playing conditions and sizing each other up.
In the fourteenth minute Mark Kirby latched onto a Connor Smith through ball and, outpacing the Ashville defence, got into the penalty area. Before he could shoot he appeared to be pushed from behind so accidentally collided with the advancing keeper Aiden Dickenson. That no penalty was awarded was in all probability due Dickensen staying down for the following three minutes.
Formby's new formation had taken something away from their usual passing game. But so had Ashville's tactics. They marked tightly, shut down quickly and had clearly singled Connor Belger out as he had two men on him most of the afternoon. They were also a strong and physically imposing side. No-one typified this more than captain Chris Barrow who was every inch the old fashioned centre forward.
Indeed it was Barrow who posed the biggest threat to Formby's goal. In the sixteenth minute he broke down the right and crossed into the area but Conor Murphy was able to clear the danger. Minutes later his strength and running got him clear of the Formby defence and into the penalty area. One on one with Michael Christopher he scuffed his shot but the Squirrels' keeper still needed to pull off a smart save.
Formby's midfield began to get hold of the ball and dominate possession. In the 29th minute Connor Smith began a vintage Formby move. Winning the ball cleanly he found Michael Boyle who hit a twenty yard shot that was fumbled by Dickenson. Paul Speed was next to try his luck but, after some deft control, his shot went over.
Dickenson was looking anything but assured and in the 35th minute he mishandled a Connor Belger shot and allowed Mark Kirby to pinch the ball and lay it back to Belger. Belger hit a fierce drive that Dickenson did superbly to get a hand to as he was back pedalling. Two minutes later it was Michael Christopher in the Formby goal who needed to be at his best. David Rudge was fouled just outside the box and Craig Griffiths took the resulting free kick. He struck it hard and true but the alert Christopher managed to tip it over the bar.
Mark Baddeley had been struggling on his return from injury with the heavy pitch so Jim Shirley decided to replace him. Instead of bringing on another right back, Matty Harris, he decided to drop Sheerin back, move Mark Toohey out wide and bring on Andrew Brown to play in front of the back four.
Two minutes before the interval Conor Murphy was guilty of overplaying and was caught in possession by Carl Maughan, but he was unable to make his shot count. It had been a tightly contested, evenly matched first half. Both sides had had chances but neither had been able to take them.
Half Time Formby 0 Ashville 0
Formby threatened from the restart when Connor Belger went on a typical run, beating three men and winning a corner. Taking it himself he found Boyle at the far post but his effort was blocked for another corner. In the fifty second minute, Rudge got inside Mark Toohey but his shot was deflected wide. The corner kick was swung in and met by centre half Matty Cass whose header rattled the cross bar.
Five minutes later Sheerin fouled the tricky Rudge and the resultant free kick hit a Formby defender and went for a corner. The corner was delivered brilliantly right into the area keepers hate and Matty Cass was able to turn the ball in from close range.
Ashville were in the ascendant now as Formby struggled to get the ball beyond midfield and create any real chances. Connor Belger was harshly booked for not really talking back to the referee before Jim Shirley made another substitution, bringing on Matty Harris with his newly shaven head for Conor Murphy. The switch seemed to stir Formby. Smart play between Kirby and Smith ended with Smith shooting just wide.
Ashville were still dangerous though. Substitute Tom Hartley found himself clear of the Formby defence but dragged his shot wide of the far post. Vinny Sheerin was booked for winning the ball cleanly, before Formby laid siege to the Ashville goal. Speed shot wide then close passing between Boyle, Belger and Kirby in the area almost created an opening. But it was not to be, and the Wembley dreams ended for another year.
Full time: Formby 0 Ashville 1
Ashville goal: Matty Cass (58)
Squirrels manager Jim Shirley can take some satisfaction from the performance of his side if not the result as this was a very closely contested match that neither side deserved to lose. In contrast to last week's second half capitulation to Irlam, his players kept going for ninety minutes and showed that they cared. The new formation strengthened the defence but detracted from their usual passing style. Shirley will have to find the balance between defence and attack but he now knows he has a Plan B.
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