Ashton attacked from the off, winning a free kick inside the first minute which put pressure on the Stafford defence until Brown managed to flick the ball over the bar after a game of pinball in the six-yard box. Rangers were soon on the front foot themselves and Jake Charles headed wide from Brad Grayson’s cross while Grayson himself was denied by a good save from Greg Hartley in the Ashton goal.
Jonathan Hunt headed off the line from Josh Green’s free kick while Hartley saved again from Charles following a deep corner from the right. A foul on Jaiden White gave Rangers another free kick on 27 minutes and, this time, Green was not to be denied as he fired in via the underside of the crossbar.
Sadly, Rangers were unable to build on their advantage and had to be content with the single goal lead at the break. With the wind in their backs, it was a different Ashton in the second half, and they pressed within a minute of the restart but, somehow, the goal remained intact. Brown made a good save to deny Sam Sheridan a couple of minutes later. Hunt headed wide from the resulting corner and another header - from Hardcastle - went the same way. At the other end, Hartley saved from Charles but the pressure on the Rangers’ defence finally told on 62 mins when Joshua Wilson was left unmarked at the back post to head in John Pritchard’s free kick.
Brown denied Louis Almond a few minutes later after Josh Burns’ error had let in the Ashton forward and Green somehow managed to block Aaron Smith’s follow up. Jack Sherratt screwed a shot wide when well placed on the edge of the Ashton area while Hardcastle wasted a great chance for the home side when he shot tamely at Brown.
Rangers had penalty appeals turned down when Kamar Moncrieffe was bundled over and it was Ashton who struck the killer blow three minutes from time when Michael Brester headed in Hardcastle’s corner.
Referee: Darren Rogers
Cautions: Hardcastle, Brewster (Ashton), D Burns, Grayson, Coulson, Sherratt (Rangers)