Rovers made the long trip into Kent to face Ashford United in this FA Trophy tie and looking to continue a decent run of form of late. Captain Garry Jones and key striker Victor Osobu were both missing this game so Dan Olineran continued at left-back and Reece Weekes made his full debut wide on the left. Fortunately, as United play on an artificial surface, the game being on was never in doubt despite the weather threatening and succeeding in the demise of many scheduled fixtures. The home side were immediately on the attack when right-back Jerald Aboagye sent in an inviting cross that no United attacker was able to reach. Action for Rovers keeper Kyle Forster followed with a double save from a David Smith header and its rebound and two shots at goal from United left-winger Aaron Condon all within the first 20 minutes. Rovers were finding it hard to create in attack as United held a stranglehold in midfield and Forster was in serious action again on 21 minutes when he pulled off a fantastic save from a Hassan Ibrahiym piledriver. United’s Aboagye was in the thick of it with 30 minutes gone with another right-wing cross but centre-forward Jay May just failed to get a connection that was meaningful and the ball sailed harmlessly wide. Just when the home support might have been thinking it was only a matter of time before their side went ahead a moment of madness from their keeper Aaron Lee-Wharton gifted Rovers a free-kick on the edge of their box and up stepped Nathan Tshikuna to plant the ball firmly behind Wharton to fire Rovers in front somewhat against the run of play on 40 minutes. However, just 2 minutes later another crazy moment, this time from Rovers left-back Olineran when he made a clumsy and needless challenge on Ibrahyim resulted in a penalty-kick award from the referee. Rovers had a let-off though as May blasted the kick straight at Forster who blocked and the rebound was spooned high over the bar to preserve Rovers narrow lead which they held until half-time.
United were immediately on the offensive and Aboagye sent in another cross which was bundled out for a corner by the over-worked Rovers defence and this was followed by another May effort at goal which went just wide. With just two minutes played in the second half Rovers were gifted a vital second goal when Connor Vincent kept his cool to side-foot home from an error by Wharton who dropped a cross right at his feet. This signalled a long spell of all-out United attack as they threw caution to the wind in search of the goals that would get them back in this match. United centre-back Josh Wisson came close after 56 minutes with a header from a corner but was thwarted by an another fine Forster save. Rovers winger Ibby Lukulay then broke upfield but his pinpoint cross met Dean Dummett at full stretch and he failed to convert. United were dominating but leaving space at the back and Rovers were increasingly looking dangerous on the break and Sam Gibson might have done better than shoot straight at Wharton after 74 minutes. However, it was United on the score-sheet after 82 minutes when their pressure finally paid off as Condon fired in a beauty from well outside the area giving Forster no chance of a save. It was all United now and the Rovers rearguard working overtime to stem the tide of attacks. The 90 minutes came and went with six minutes of added time in the equation but Rovers spurned a golden chance 3 minutes into added time when substitute Jemale McKenzie-Lowe hit the post at the end of a breakaway Rovers attack. Having missed this chance to put the game to bed, Rovers did hold out to secure the win and passage through to the 2nd Qualifying Round draw. A real backs to the wall performance, particularly by the Rovers back four and keeper, were the foundation of this victory......the Rovers march on!!
Rovers will play the winners of a replay between Sholing and Marlow in the next round but next up a trip to face Didcot Town in a league match this Saturday.
Final Score: Ashford United 1 (Condon 82) Barton Rovers 2 (Tshikuna 40, Vincent 47)
Rovers Team: Forster, Jibodu, Olineran, Thomas (Andrews 77), Sonuga, Gibson, Lukulay, Dummett, Vincent (McKenzie-Lowe 64), Tshikuna, Weekes (Griffiths 74).
Rovers MOM: Kyle Forster