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Ashford United 0 Herne Bay 2 Isthmian South East play-off final match report: Goals from Kieron Campbell and Aaron Millbank earn Bay victory and promotion at Homelands


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Herne Bay earned promotion to Isthmian Premier for the first time in the club’s history as they beat Ashford in the Isthmian South East play-off final on Saturday.

In-form winger Kieron Campbell broke the deadlock after a goalless first half before substitute Aaron Millbank won a penalty which he converted himself to seal the 2-0 victory as Bay finally beat Ashford at the third time of asking this season.

Bay made a good start to an entertaining and fairly end-to-end first half in front of a bumper 1,865 crowd at Homelands.

With three minutes played, the dangerous Rory Smith drove forward from midfield for Bay, who had booked their final berth with a shoot-out success over Haywards Heath after a 3-3 draw on Tuesday. But he couldn’t quite pick out top scorer Zak Ansah.

Soon after at the other end, Gary Lockyer threatened for the first time, seeing his effort well blocked by an away defender.

Ashford striker Lockyer again troubled the visiting defence in the sixth minute as he tried to add to the incredible 37 goals he had already got for the campaign but Bay goalkeeper Jordan Perrin palmed the ball away to safety on his way to a sixth clean sheet in seven games.

Referee Abigail Byrne dismissed Herne Bay penalty appeals for handball in the ninth minute, Mike West having directed a Smith corner towards goal before a United player intervened.

Herne Bay boss Ben Smith. Picture: Randolph File
Herne Bay boss Ben Smith. Picture: Randolph File

The 12th minute saw Herne Bay’s Dan Johnson and United’s Tommie Fagg clash, although there was only a warning for either player at the end of it all.

Three minutes later, the home contingent felt they should have been awarded a penalty themselves for Bay captain Laurence Harvey’s challenge on Tashi-Jay Kwayie. Their protests fell on deaf ears, though.

Lockyer had another opportunity midway through the first period, heading Bradley Simms’ left-wing cross wide at the back post.

Away chants of Smith’s name rang around Homelands in the 28th minute as the forward's snap-shot forced United goalkeeper Jordan Carey into his first real action of the afternoon.

With 32 minutes on the clock, Smith latched on to a clever flick from West and saw his strike crash against Carey’s left-hand post, before Tommy Warrilow's Nuts & Bolts went close at the other end.

Herne Bay winger Kieron Campbell set them on their way to victory with the opening goal in the play-off final. Picture: Keith Davy
Herne Bay winger Kieron Campbell set them on their way to victory with the opening goal in the play-off final. Picture: Keith Davy

Jay May - in what may be his last game before he hangs up his boots with the experienced marksman considering retirement - was the next to go close two minutes later.

He failed to direct Tariq Ossai’s right-wing cross on target, though, with Lockyer forcing a fairly simple save from Perrin not long after.

After the restart, the hosts, who had beaten Cray Valley 1-0 on Tuesday in their semi-final, made a positive start and inside a minute midweek scorer May had sent a Frannie Collin’s corner high over the bar from a good position in the box.

But that was the only chance in an otherwise cagey and tense start to the second half.

Just before the hour mark, Perrin had to make another good save when a Simms long throw fell kindly to Kwayie who nodded towards goal.

Ashford United manager Tommy Warrilow. Picture: Ian Scammell
Ashford United manager Tommy Warrilow. Picture: Ian Scammell

A pivotal couple of moments then came midway through the half.

Lockyer looked to have been fouled by Johnson inside the area but, once again, the home penalty protests were waved away.

That call looked all the more crucial when the deadlock was broken seconds later at the other end. Herne Bay caused problems down the left and Campbell bent into the far corner, scoring in his third successive game, to spark huge celebrations in the away end.

With less than 20 minutes to go, Lockyer sent a shot just over but was booked - presumably for something he’d said - as the ball went out of play, the home team now trying to pile on the pressure.

But Bay substitute Millbank came on with 12 minutes to go and made a big impact in the 84th minute at the other end of the pitch.

He was adjudged to have been fouled by Simms when through on goal and sent Carey the wrong way from the spot to double his side's advantage.

In stoppage-time, Ansah was booked for taking too long to come off the pitch having been substituted but, in the end, it mattered little.

Both teams had made a change apiece to their starting line-ups.

For the Nuts & Bolts, Ossai came in for Mamadou Diallo while Dan Carrington replaced Troy Williams for the visitors.

Brad Schafer took Eddie Allsopp’s spot on the substitutes’ bench after his midweek red card, making a cameo appearance. On-loan Ebbsfleet midfielder West was fit to start for them.

In the league, Ashford did the double over Bay, beating them 2-1 and 3-0, but Ben Smith's side did the business when it mattered most.

Ashford United: Carey, Ossai, Kamara (Ter Horst 85mins), Friend, Simms, Wisson, Fagg, Collin, Kwayie (Diallo 78mins), May (Burdon 73mins), Lockyer. Subs not used: Trespaderne, Ramadan.

Herne Bay: Perrin, Carrington, Parter, Anidugbe, Johnson, Harvey, Campbell, Antonio, Ansah (Schafer 90mins), West (Millbank 78mins), Smith. Subs not used: Williams, Phillip, Denny.

Referee: Abigail Byrne.

Attendance: 1,865.

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