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Godalming Town 1 Ashford Town (Middx) 1
Ashford Town (Middlesex) need two points from their final two matches to clinch the Greater London League Division Two South title after a dramatic match away to closest challengers Godalming Town.
The hosts had taken an 83rd minute lead and a home victory would have left Ashford requiring two wins to pip Godalming. An Ashford equaliser deep into stoppage time changed the picture greatly and gave the visitors a vital point in a highly competitive and well fought encounter.
Godalming had the first shot on target from Rebecca Munro within the opening ten seconds but the visitors were soon threatening, a Vicky James free kick flying across the area. A Godalming corner by Marianne O'Byrne gave Hannah Davies the chance to power in a header which keeper Lauren Restel held on her line on nine minutes.
The play was evenly contested as befitted the outstanding teams in the league. Ashford eventually started to dominate as the game reached the half hour and Kimberley Ketchell made a fine save as Sequoia Belworthy got clear on goal on 28 minutes. James had a long range effort just wide, then Lavana Neufville netted from Belworthy's pass but was flagged offside.
Godalming's O'Byrne had a good run and shot just wide on 41 minutes but possibly the best chance of the half fell to Ashford's Neufville right on the break when another good passing move left her clear but the shot flew wide.
Ashford went close twice on the restart when Hannah Noonan had a shot turned for a corner, from which Neufville had a header cleared off the line. However, it took two stunning saves from Restel to prevent Godalming from going in front on the hour. Firstly, she leapt high to tip away a fierce Munro shot, then produced an even better reaction save from Rebecca Bloor's header from the resulting corner.
Both teams were pressing for a breakthrough, Ashford with the majority of possession but Godalming always dangerous on the break. A powerfully hit free kick by Jess Pickett from 25 yards led to the Godalming opener with seven minutes remaining, leading scorer Munro was on hand to turn home the loose ball after Restel saved low to her left.
Encouraged by the lead, Godalming defended very effectively and seemed to have done enough to claim a victory as the match moved into the sixth added minute. However, a James free kick from wide right was perfectly positioned to cause a scramble in front of goal and a final touch from Belworthy sent the ball trickling over the line for a huge moment in the context of a season long battle.
Indeed, Ashford might have taken the win in the final seconds and claimed the title with another James free kick but skipper Ketchell made a fine save to keep Godalming level on the day and ahead for now in the table. Both teams were a credit to the league with every player giving their all in a stirring encounter.
Kimberley Ketchell, Carys Potter, Hannah Davies, Laura Funnell, Mairead Cheeseman, Lou Lloyd, Grace Merry, Rebecca Bloor, Rebecca Munro, Marianne O'Byrne, Jess Pickett. Subs: Louise Skerry, Zoe Greener, Nicky Jefford.
Ashford Town (Middx):
Lauren Restel, Laura Huse, Jess Boyd, Amber Luzar, Nicole Jacobs, Vicky James, Holly Isaacs, Lavana Neufville, Hannah Noonan, Charmaine Benham, Sequoia Belworthy. Subs: Tyra Banks, Lauren Richardson.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Nicole Jacobs battles for the ball with Rebecca Munro
(middle) Lou Lloyd clears away from Jess Boyd
(bottom) Rebecca Bloor is faced by Charmaine Benham
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