Embattled Holwell Sports make league leaders Ashby work hard for win

Ian Bitmead intercepts an Ashby Ivanhoe cross EMN-150211-173713002
Ian Bitmead intercepts an Ashby Ivanhoe cross EMN-150211-173713002
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An injury-stricken Holwell side further depleted by player departures earned credit for a battling display against the league leaders.

Manager Simon Daws had to delve deep to field a team to host Ashby after Aaron Ridout, Chris Hibbitt, Liam Chapman and Kieran Foster all left the club in midweek.

Holwell started Saturday’s match brightly with Graham Wells unleashing a powerful shot at goal in the opening minutes which skimmed the bar.

Wells and Julian Joachim kept Ivanhoe’s defence busy, but the visitors went close when Sam Johnston’s powerful header cleared the bar.

The hosts held their own for the opening quarter of the match against lacklustre opponents, and midway through the half Wells again had a half-chance, but lifted his shot high and wide.

Holwell had a strong penalty shout turned down after an apparent two-handed block by an Ashby defender, but at the other end, Quinn was beginning to get the better of the home defence and hit the post from a difficult angle.

Harry Wood kept Holwell in the match with a series of saves, but the visitors looked far removed from a team who were 27 points better off than their opponents.

Yet poor opponents are being made to look good by Holwell’s inability to field strong sides, and Ashby broke through nine minutes before half-time.

The home defence failed to clear a corner and Sam Johnson did well to drill a low, fizzing shot into the net.

The hosts could be happy to have conceded only once at half-time with all players putting in a good shift.

Ashby started the second half strongly, but the back four of Anderson, Bitmead, Purkis and Cropper kept the forwards out.

The visitors soon started to turn the screw, but Holwell picked up and looked like they could nick something as they forced a series of four free-kicks in the opposing half and a corner.

But Ashby’s Danny Quinn remained a big threat, and having missed chance after chance, atoned for his earlier misdemeanours on 61 minutes.

From a low cross into a crowded goalmouth, Quinn’s fluke back-heel at the back post rolled slowly over the line.

Soon after, Holwell’s injury jinx deepened as the home side lost Wood after he bravely dived at the feet of a forward.

And soon after Carlton Cropper became Holwell’s fifth keeper of the season, Ian Wells, who had been playing well in midfield, was also forced off injured.

It was a case of backs-to-the-wall for the last 20 minutes, and Ashby brought on three substitutes with fresh legs to try and overrun the home side.

But it took until the 90th minute for them to add to the scoreline when sub Antonio Williams broke free to go one-on-one with Cropper who was unlucky not to make the save stop.

Holwell: Wood (Barnard), Anderson, Bitmead, Purkis, Cropper, Harris, Daws, I. Wells (Withers), Lowe, Joachim, G. Wells.