OPPOSITION FOCUS: ASHTON UNITED

19 Feb 2024 | Latest News

The Silkmen are once again in league action on Tuesday night as we make the trip to take on Ashton United. 

Alex Bruce’s side came into the game off the back of a comeback 5-3 victory at home to Ilkeston Town.

We take a closer look at our Greater Manchester opponents in Ashton United.

HISTORY

The club was founded in 1878 as Hurst Football Club and the earliest known match report dates back to a game against Hurst Red Star on 16 March 1879. They originally played in black-and-white stripes and were nicknamed the Lambs. The club first entered the FA Cup in 1883, beating Turton 3–1 in the first round, and then Irwell Springs 3–2 in the second. However, the result was annulled after a protest from Irwell, and it was they who advanced to the third round after Hurst refused to play the replay. In 1885 they won the first edition of the Manchester Senior Cup, beating Newton Heath (now Manchester United) 3–0 in the final. In the same year they reached the second round of the FA Cup again. However, although they defeated Halliwell 3–1, the result was annulled again. Ashton refused to play the replay and Halliwell advanced to the third round.

Hurst joined the Ashton & District League in 1891, but after finishing ninth in the league in the 1891–92 season, it was reported in June 1892 that the club had folded. They were reformed in 1909, and were admitted to the Manchester League as it was expanded from 16 to 18 clubs. In their first season in the league, they finished level on points at the top of the table with Salford United, resulting in a play-off for the championship, which Salford won 2–1. After finishing sixth in 1910–11, the club won the league title in 1911–12 and subsequently joined Division Two of the Lancashire Combination. Although they only finished fifth in 1912–13, they were promoted to Division One of the league for the 1913–14 season. Due to the outbreak of World War I, the club did not compete in 1915–16, but re-entered a wartime edition of the league for the 1916–17 season, winning the title. However, they did not compete during the following season. They resumed in the Lancashire Combination in 1918–19, but switched to the Cheshire County League in 1923. Players started wearing red shirts, earning the club a new nickname – the Robins.

Shortly before World War II, Hurst signed Dixie Dean, but the outbreak of hostilities limited him to a handful of appearances for the club. Following the war, the club resumed playing in the Cheshire County League for the 1945–46 season, changing their name to Ashton United on 1 February 1947. Despite finishing second bottom of the league in 1946–47, they applied for election to the Football League, but the four Football League clubs were re-elected without a vote being taken. They subsequently rejoined the Lancashire Combination in 1948 and were placed in Division One. After finishing twelfth in 1960–61, the club resigned from the league in order to apply to rejoin the Cheshire County League; in a ballot, they defeated by Altrincham and Wigan Athletic, and so had to rejoin the Lancashire Combination. However, Division One was now full, so the club had to drop into Division Two, which they won in 1961–62 to earn promotion back to Division One. 

With the creation of the Conference North in 2004, a 14th-place finish in 2003–04 saw Ashton United play-off against Hyde United and Bradford Park Avenue for the right to play in the new league. Following a 2–1 win over Hyde, they lost 2–1 to Bradford Park Avenue in the final. However, after the unfortunate demise of Telford United, an extra place became available in the new structure and Ashton took their place in the Conference North. The following season saw them finish second-from-bottom, resulting in relegation back to the Northern Premier League’s Premier Division. In 2010 the club were ordered to pay £32,000 to Marcus Hallows after he was injured playing against Ashton for Altrincham. 

In 2011, Ashton United won the Northern Premier League Challenge Cup, beating Northwich Victoria 1–0 in the final. After finishing fifth in 2013–14 the club qualified for the promotion play-offs; however, after beating F.C. United of Manchester 2–1 after extra time, they lost the final to AFC Fylde on penalties after a 1–1 draw.  The 2014–15 season saw a third-place finish, again qualifying for the promotion play-offs, in which they lost on penalties to local rivals Curzon Ashton after a 1–1 draw. A third consecutive play-off campaign followed a fourth-place finish in 2015–16, but saw the club lose 3–1 to Salford City in the semi-finals. In 2017–18 they were Premier Division runners-up; in the play-offs they defeated Farsley Celtic 2–0 in the semi-finals, before beating Grantham Town in the final to earn promotion back to the renamed National League North; they were relegated back to the Northern Premier League at the end of the following season after finishing third-from-bottom.

CURRENT FORM 

The Robins have drawn three out of their last five games in the league and currently sit ninth in the Northern Premier League. Last time out, they drew 1-1 away at Bradford Park Avenue despite taking the lead around the hour mark, they were pegged back by Blackpool loanee Jake Daniels. A draw at home to fellow play off rivals Guiseley saw back to back draws.

A very early Jay Rollins goal saw Ashton fall to defeat away at Worksop Town. Two high scoring games followed as a 4-3 victory at home to Atherton Collieries saw Ashton pick up their only win in five. They were also denied last on away at Morpeth Town who equalised in the 90th minute to deny The Robins picking up three points at Craik Park.

ONE TO WATCH 

JASON GILCHRIST

Jason Gilchrist is one to watch for The Robins. The centre forward is Ashton’s top scorer this season with 16 goals in all competitions.

Having spent time at Burnley in his youth, Gilchrist has spent time at FC United, York City and Buxton before eventually Steve Cunningham’s side.

PREVIOUS MEETINGS 

Last time the sides met resulted in a convincing victory for The Silkmen at the Leasing.com Stadium. A 5-0 victory on a scorching day in September saw The Silkmen pick up three points thanks to goals from Paul Dawson, Luke Duffy, Neil Kengni and an Alex Curran brace.

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