By Fred Dobberson:

Following what turned out to be a slightly unfortunate conclusion to the 2018-19 season for The Dabbers after a play-off knock out, we’re going to take a look at the 2017/18 Evo-Stik Premier Division play-off winners – Ashton United.

Last Season’s Antics

Position: 20th (Relegated from National League North)
Top Scorer:

A tough campaign saw Ashton United finish 20th in the National League North, finishing nine points from safety. 9 wins, 8 draws and 25 losses meant they picked up just 35 points all term.

Long runs of poor form at vital stages to the season meant that Ashton struggled to really get a grip of their season, and any hopes of a last grasp at survival were blown out the window with just one win in their last ten games.

Who’s in Charge?

Jody Benim leads to reigns for The Robins, and is still technically part of their first team playing squad as well, however did not play a game in the 2018/19 season. The forward guided Ashton to a play off win in May 2018 after beating Grantham Town.

Benim first signed for Ashton United in 2015, and scored with his first touch for the club. By September 2016, the former Manchester United trainee had been named as a player manager.

His playing career started out at Manchester United as a trainee, before earning himself a move to fellow Manchester side, Radcliffe Borough. After a very successful career at The Boro, scoring 97 goals in 125 league games, Benim earned himself a move to Shrewsbury Town. Following his spell at Shrewsbury, the forward enjoyed spells at the likes of Accrington Stanley, Torquay United and also Burton Albion.

Last Time We Met

The last time the two teams met was back in April 2018, as Ashton United finished the game as 2-1 winners over The Dabbers. An early header from Liam Tomsett put The Robins ahead after just six minutes. However, The Dabbers responded later on in the half after Tomsett then put the ball in his own net trying to defend from a freekick. Alas, just before halftime, Ashton went back ahead after a Sam Sheridan free kick was curled over the wall.

The game would prove an important win for United as it meant their promotion chances only increased as the two teams were nearing the end of the season.

Home Comforts

The Robins play their matches at Hurst Cross, based in Ashton-Under-Lyne. Hurst Cross boasts one of the oldest opening dates for football stadia in the UK, after it was first played on back in 1884.  It was confirmed earlier this year that Ashton will have the ground for another thirty years, and potentially more.

The ground holds a capacity of up to 4500 people, with 250 seats being available in the ‘Sid Sykes Main Stand’.

The players enter the pitch via tunnel through the main stand, which also contains a small area in the back as a directors box.

Opposite to the main stand is the ‘Popular Stand’; ingrained into is the initials of the football club, ‘AUFC’. Similarly to the main stand, it is under cover which provides good protection in wet conditions. At either end of the two stands sits two open terraces behind each goal. To the left of the main stand lies ‘The Rowley Street End’ which also is being looked over by a  number of residential houses who get a full view of the pitch. To the right of the main stand is ‘The Lees Road End’ which on a rare occasion is where the away fans would be segregated too should the club think necessary. However, if you plan on visiting next season, the likelihood is that there will be no segregation.

Claim to Fame  

Hurst Cross is the second oldest continually played on in the world. Only Preston North End’s Deepdale has been played on for the longer.

The great Dixie Dean once graced the turf of Hurst Cross, back in 1940. The Everton legend, who has a statue outside of Goodison Park, finished his 17 year playing career at the club. In the two games he played for them, he scored one goal. The war stopped Dean from potentially becoming a legend at another club, and he no longer played again after the warm stopped him.

Next Season’s Plans

United have already been busy over the summer with seven new signings in their bid for a quick return back to the National League North.

With The Dabbers also having a successful season, fans may potentially be in for a treat for when the two sides next meet. With both teams looking to finish in the play-offs or higher, we could also be in for a season long battle with The Robins.