Ashton & Backwell begin new season with defeat at Keynsham

Keynsham Town and Ashton & Backwell players before the first game of the 2021-22 season

Keynsham Town and Ashton & Backwell players before the first game of the 2021-22 season - Credit: Josh Thomas

Ashton & Backwell United began life in the Toolstation Western League Premier Division with a 3-0 defeat at Keynsham Town.

Despite a bright start from the side that earned promotion from Division One, after the FA’s points per game ruling from the last two seasons, the Stags went behind when George Rooke opened the scoring inside the six-yard box after 30 minutes.

The dangerous Will Hailston doubled The K’s lead with a penalty four minutes into the second half before Harley Purnell’s low strike outside the box made it three, a few minutes later.

The division’s newcomers came into the game excited by the prospect of playing in their first ever match in the top flight but was overshadowed by manager Charlie Rich’s departure on Thursday.

Rich, along with his assistant Richard Earrey, left after two months in charge, after replacing Stuart Jones at the helm, leaving Matt Southern to take caretaker change with Nick Smart and Mike Radnadge as his assistants.

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However, on the pitch the Stags started impressively, and in particular Joel Bayliss, who went close twice in the opening four minutes.

Miles Hardidge found the forward with a wonderful ball behind the defence to allow him with a free run at goal, but Seth Locke easily gathered up his effort before Bayliss volleyed over from Connor Saunders’ cross.

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Brad Skidmore was then taken out but he was able to get the ball to Connor Saunders.

The Stags captain took a touch to steady himself and with his second sent a fantastic strike towards goal but it was kept out at the far post by Seth Locke.

A&B surged forward again in the 24th minute, when a great ball across the face of goal by Saul Jarrett was met by Bayliss but Rooke bravely got in the way to deny the striker.

Moments later Hailston saw his strike come back off the crossbar before The K’s opened the scoring after half an hour.

A low ball into the box found its way to Rooke and the defender was able to turn and shoot past Clarke from six yards.

The goal lifted the hosts and they could have had a second a minute later but Joe Bishop’s block superbly denied Hailston.

Stags goalkeeper Reo Clarke, in for the injured Lewis Coombes, produced a wonderful one-handed save from Jordan Metters’ header to deny the hosts a second after good work by Rooke on the right.

Hailston hit the woodwork again when his first time strike came back off the inside of the post just before half-time.

But John Allen’s side took the game away from the visitors with two goals in three second-half minutes when Hailston scored from the spot after Jamie Noble was clipped by Sam Thomas.

And it was three after Purnell’s low shot from 20 yards gave the home side a third.

Callum Baker then fired over but the visitors kept going and were unfortunate not to get a consolation after both Billy Devoy and Charlie Saunders were denied by Locke as The K’s grabbed the win.

Ashton & Backwell United: Clarke, Devoy, Sollars, (Main 67) Bishop, Thomas, Connor Saunders, Charlie Saunders, Hardidge, Jarrett, Skidmore (Solari 54), Bayliss (Price 75)

Attendance: 126.

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