Cherry Red Records Combined Counties League Premier Division
Horley Town 3 Ashford Town (Middlesex) 2
LIKE a classy cricketer lifting his bat aloft to celebrate his half-century, Ashley Nadesan bagged another brilliant brace to topple second-placed Ashford Town (Middlesex) in a pulsating clash at The New Defence on Saturday.
Appropriately, Nadesan, watched by Brighton & Hove Albion and Colchester United, among his ever growing list of professional clubs’ admirers, reached 50 goals this season as classy Clarets seriously dented their high-flying visitors’ title and promotion ambitions following a frantic and controversial finish.
Manager Anthony Jupp admitted afterwards: "I am so proud of what we have achieved at Horley Town FC. We have plenty of youngsters in the first team who have gone through the juniors and youth sections of our club. Ashley has been outstanding for two seasons doing what he does best, scoring goals. He will most definitely get signed by a big club at the end of this season and we will miss him massively. I know that I speak for myself and the team and we all wish him all the very best in chasing his dream."
Jupp revealed that he and coach Matt Chapman had decided to take off "Mr Reliable" captain Adam Pullin, March’s Claret of the month, at half-time in front of the 104-strong crowd, due to a knee injury. The Clarets’ boss said: "Adam wanted to continue but we decided not to worsen his injury. Just after half-time we started believing in ourselves and each other, battling for everything.
"Ashford are second in the league for a reason because they are a very good footballing side and they soon got it back to 2-2. Ashford were then awarded a late penalty, which in my opinion and for most most of the spectators never was, which was missed anyway."
Skipper Pullin said: "It was a great performance from Horley Town and hard work pays off. Ashley is a credit to what the club and Anthony Jupp are trying to build for the future. He must believe in himself now!"
Nadesan said: "What a game that was! I have loved the journey. Now to finish the season on a high and get as high as possible in the league. When you hit 50 goals in the season and get three points against the title favourites it was a great performance from the Horley Town lads and for me to bag two goals."
The visitors, who were desperate for a vital victory, broke the deadlock after 29 minutes through Bayley Mummery, shooting home at the far post, giving goalkeeper George Hyde no chance, punishing Clarets for failing to clear their lines.
The hosts equalised crucially on half-time when outstanding Ryan Brackpool’s right-wing long throw-in forced keeper Tyler Tobin to punch the ball over his own goal-line.
Nadesan put the hosts ahead on 74 minutes, following a typically surging near post run by beating Samad Kazi for pace and then shooting home despite Will Boye’s attempted goal-line clearance.
Dan Fleming equalised after 83 minutes, bursting through, capitalising on centre-back Liam Cox’s slip-up before beating Hyde at his near post.
In an astonishing finale, The Tangerines’ Mark Bitmead saw his 30 yard 90th minute free-kick rebound to safety off the crossbar before the visitors were fuming in the first additional minute allowed by referee Michael Hayden when Alex Fisher’s right-wing corner appeared to have been spilled over the line by Hyde, but this time the effort was disallowed for an infringement.
Seconds later came a rushed clearance from Hyde which found Nadesan who got through at the far post on a breakaway and fired home to complete his brace with the winner, sparking jubilant scenes.
In the eighth of 10 added minutes, captain Jack Beadle’s left-wing corner was adjudged to have been handled by Clarets’ outstanding left-back Jack Poplett and the referee pointed to the spot controversially. However, Bitmead put his penalty over the bar, sparking extraordinary scenes as Cox appeared to be floored and then have his head stamped on, leading to a flurry of cautions but no dismissals as the hosts hung on to edge this thriller.
Horley Town: George Hyde, Scott Robson, Jack Poplett, John Eldred, Adam Pullin (capt) (Bailey Rumbelow 45 min), Liam Cox, Richard Wetton (Nathan Jupp 90 min), Ben Herdman, Ryan Brackpool, Ashley Nadesan, Justin Ford (Connor Power 90 min). Unused subs: Liam Giles, Leyton Regan.