Grouse hunts down Ingles with second half hat-trick as Ashby Ivanhoe move joint top of league
By Josh Kay
3rd Jan 2023 | Local Sport
Ingles 0 Ashby Ivanhoe 4
Sam Grouse's second half hat trick ensured Ashby Ivanhoe began the new year with three points, and moved level with Dudley Town at the top of the MFL Division One.
Despite sitting in the bottom half, Ingles knocked Ivanhoe out of the MFL cup earlier in the season, and once again put up a stern resistance in the first half.
Playing downhill from the off, Ashby showed themselves to be the stronger side. The visitors had most of the possession but struggled to create many clear cut chances on what was a difficult pitch.
They would break the deadlock after 18 minutes however when Jake Conkay brilliantly met Josh Thomas' in-swinging corner kick. His header was within reach of the goalkeeper, but the power of the ball meant his small touch couldn't stop the ball crossing the line.
Before the break, Andy Gray would be forced into an early change when Jack Robinson sustained an ankle injury. He would be replaced by Will Groocock in a change which saw Chris Acott move into midfield.
After the break, Ashby's quality was on display as they carved the Ingles defence up in a relentless half of football.
The pitch in a much better condition in the half they were attacking, Andy Gray's side were able to play the free flowing style that Ivanhoe supporters have been accustomed to this season. Thomas and Acott finding space on the flanks and setting attacks in motion.
The lead was doubled just two minutes into the half as substitute Groocock picked up the ball on the right of the box, his low cross found Grouse's feet who slotted into the far corner, his first in what would prove to be a fruitful half for the top scorer.
His second, 15 minutes later, would come in similar fashion to his first. This time it was Thomas who received the ball out wide, his sublime cross from the left picked out Grouse, who guided his header past the scrambling goalkeeper.
As Ingles tired, the fitness levels of Ashby were showcased. With 15 minutes to play, Ash Garner relentlessly carried the ball from his own half into the hosts box. Choosing the unselfish route, he played the ball to Grouse who had a simple finish for his hat trick.
Garner's tireless effort has made him one of the standout players this season and in tough conditions, playing uphill against a lagging opponent, he thrived.
Ingles would force Tommy Dyche into action for the first time late in the half, blocking a goal bound effort from point blank range before seeing the ball squirm wide from the rebound.
His save ensured a first clean sheet in five league games, making it a perfect afternoon for Gray's side, who are now level at the top of the table following Dudley's draw with Heath Hayes.
On Saturday, focus will turn to Dudley's clash with third placed Hinckley AFC, who will be looking to do Ashby a favour, with Ivanhoe having a two week break following yesterday's win