PURTON manager Chris Pethick was left disappointed by a slow start that ended their slim chances of upsetting Ascot in the Hellenic League Challenge Cup, writes CHRISTOPHER PANKS.
Goals from defenders Joe Yeates and Dave Hancock inside the opening 10 minutes put the Hellenic Premier title-chasers in command and further efforts by Ian Brooks and Rob Saunders before half-time effectively put the tie to bed.
Hosts Purton claimed a consolation through James Richards after the break, before Ascot goalscorer Saunders was dismissed with 15 minutes remaining, but the Reds could not make their numerical advantage count in limited time as the game ended 4-1 to the visitors.
“I'm disappointed in our first half showing, we weren't at the races and didn't get going,” said Pethick.
“They're a good side and they were 4-0 up before we knew it. Trouble is we have players that are unavailable and players turning up late, so our preparation wasn't as good as it should have been and we've paid the price.
"I thought we had a good 20-minute spell after we conceded, then we've let ourselves down with the last 10 minutes of the half and we're four-nil down at half time."
“We haven't done ourselves justice really. All I asked was that we give a better performance in the second half and we did that.”
Ascot who have only lost in the league three times this season, edged ahead after only four minutes when Yeates was left unmarked in the box from a free kick and he guided his header past Purton keeper Devon Brown.
Brown was again fishing the ball from his net three minutes later, as Ascot captain Hancock took full advantage of ponderous Purton defending and produced a smart low finish to double the lead.
The home side began to recover shortly afterwards and good work down the left wing by Tom Swindall created a chance, but his centre to an unmarked Blaine Fitzgerald was smartly cut out by Yeates.
After a quiet spell, Ascot's Darly McLean danced into the box and forced a good save from Brown.
Hard-working midfielder Steve May had Purton's best chance of the game when he beat three Ascot players to find time in the box, but his low shot fizzed agonisingly wide of the far post.
Soon after, Brooks increased Ascot's lead as Saunders' corner evaded everyone in the box and the winger nodded the ball home at the far post.
Two minutes later it was 4-0, this time scored by Saunders as he timed his run on to a through-ball well and emphatically beat the advancing Brown when one-on-one.
The game was one of few in the area to go ahead and the conditions still affected the game as the wind strengthened towards to the Ascot goal and visiting keeper Chris Grace's kicking suffered as a result.
His kicks repeatedly invited pressure and ultimately it cost him his clean sheet 10 minutes into the second half. A clearance from his hands fell at Richards' feet and the striker, who has missed most of the season through injury, fired into the unguarded net from 40 yards.
Buoyed by their opener and aided by the tailwind, Purton began to create more chances and Grace was forced into a smart double save on the hour mark, first tipping Fitzgerald's shot away, then racing to block the rebound.
Saunders was dismissed for two separate incidents of dissent which both drew yellow cards, before Purton had two great chances to reduce the deficit.
The first was with 10 minutes remaining when Fitzgerald beat Grace to a through-ball 20 yards from goal and played in Dave Gee, but the winger lofted over the open net.
In the final minute of normal time, Fitzgerald looked to be through, but a brilliantly-timed challenge by Luke Bersey removed the danger.