Ashton on brink of return to first team

Defender looking to pick up where he left off last season

STEVENAGE defender Jon Ashton says he’s desperate to regain his place in the back four after being forced to watch Boro’s opening two games of the season from the sidelines.

The 27-year-old underwent a hip arthroscopy two days after Boro’s FA Trophy Final defeat at Wembley and the fearless 6ft 2in centre-half has been frustrated at not playing a part in Boro’s start to the season which has seen the Lamex Stadium turn into somewhat of a media circus.

However, after making a return to full training a little over a week ago, he is hopeful of being picked for the squad which will travel to Bradford City on Saturday.

“It’s been pretty annoying,” Ashton told The Comet.

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“I’ve only missed two games so far but I had the operation done two days after the Trophy final because I wanted to get back as quickly as possible and hopefully I won’t miss too many more games.

“Basically, I had keyhole surgery to see what was wrong and they had to repair the cartilage in the hip and shave the bone down because it was an irregular shape and it took a while for it to heel.

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“I’ve missed pre-season with the lads so I’ve had to do my own thing in order to keep fit but I’ve just got to prove myself now just like everyone else.”

Despite seeing his teammates put in valiant performances against Macclesfield and Portsmouth, Ashton says he was disappointed at the sloppy manner in which Boro conceded the four goals.

Manager Graham Westley has been forced to re-jig his centre-back pairing a number of times since the start of pre-season owing to Ashton’s absence, with Michael Bostwick and Luke Foster both taking turns to fill the void.

But while Ashton says his replacements have performed well, he has made it clear he wants to win his pace back as soon as possible.

He added: “Last season’s success was built on a strong defence and we conceded sloppy goals at the weekend and a set-piece against Portsmouth. Obviously being a defender myself, it’s disappointing when we concede goals like that but who’s to say those goals wouldn’t have happened if I was in the team – I would hope it wouldn’t though.

“The lads that have come into defence have done well and Bossie played there quite a bit last season and did well, but I’m hopeful I can get my spot back sooner rather than later.”

Ashton also believes his team really don’t have anything to fear this season with the quality that exists within the squad.

Westley and chairman Phil Wallace have been quick to play down any talk of targets for this season, with the focus being placed firmly on the next game and nothing else.

However, Ashton, who already has experience of playing in the fourth tier of English football, says the jump up in class is not that great.

He added: “We want the same success this year as we had last season but we’re just taking it one game at a time.

“I’ve played in League 2 before and obviously the standard is a little bit better but I think we were a class above last season in the Conference and the step up isn’t really going to affect us.

“We’ve got quite a few lads that haven’t played at this level before and once they settle down and realise they are able to play at this level just as easily as they could in the Conference, then we will do well.

“We’ve shown that we can mix it with Championship teams already this summer. We did it pre-season against Millwall and Norwich and on Monday night against Portsmouth so there’s no reason why we can’t have a good season.”

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