International breaks can be a blessing in non-league football and a great opportunity to showcase your team to a wider audience. The Robins’ long trip to the North-East followed their FA Cup win last weekend at Kings Lynn, as they continue to rack up the mileage this season.
It was, however, a weekend to forget for Ashton United, as they fell to a 5-0 defeat at promotion hopefuls Spennymoor Town. It is the 3rd time this season that Ashton have conceded 5 goals, and the third different goalkeeper to be on the receiving end of a tough day at the office.
So where are they going wrong? Or is there more to it…
The first came at home against Brackley, Dave Carnell was the unfortunate goalkeeper on this occasion. He himself only just returning after missing the successful playoff campaign the previous season through injury. He has since left the club following the arrival of Luke Pilling (Loan) from Tranmere. Pilling is a regular in the Wales u21 set up, so a back up was a necessity.
Local lad and serving British Army Soldier, Josh Ollerenshaw was selected for the game against high flyers Chorley who diligently, and deservedly, came away from Hurst Cross with a 5-0 victory. (Josh is currently on deployment in Kenya with his regiment, and is not due to return until the Christmas period.) A spell of comparative stability followed, Pilling was available and The Robins picked up some precious points along with 2 huge FA Cup wins.
This weekend, Ashton were travelling with yet another goalkeeper (their 5th of the season after an appearance in the cup midweek by young Harry Turner) as the veteran Jan Budtz (Doncaster, Wolves, Hartlepool, Oldham) was drafted in as cover for Pilling who is on international duty.
Another 5 goals conceded.
The stability of any team starts at the back, and the confidence this brings to every player throughout the whole squad is undeniable. Ashton United have been dogged with bad luck in their goalkeeping department for the last 3 seasons. In 2016/2017, the Robins ended up using 9 goalkeepers, including three in 3 games at one stage. Amongst Ashton’s troubles, Grant Shenton broke an arm in Pre-Season, then John Diba-Musanga and George Dorrington were both carried off injured on thier debuts as injuries plagued the No.1 spot throughout the season.
17/18 was not much better, the recurring trend reappeared, Dave Carnell joined the side, before a flurry of injuries forced another 4 players between the sticks, including two appearances for centre-half Aaron Chalmers, when all 3 substitutes had already been made.
Hopefully, the return of Pilling in time for the final FA Cup qualifying round will spur the team onto bigger and better things. The Robins face a trip to Southport on Saturday, where the spoils were shared earlier in the season, and a clean sheet will guarantee them at least a replay in the cup (and a few quid in the coffers), so there will be some keen eyes on the young Welshman at the weekend.