Witham had been beaten 2-0 by Grays in a Bostik League division north clash on the opening day of the season and faced the same side in a Velocity Cup first round tie.
This time, though, the two Essex rivals drew 0-0 over 90 minutes and it was Witham who progressed thanks to a 5-3 victory on penalties.
And Ashford said the difference in the level of his players’ performance was what was especially pleasing to him.He said: “When the players work hard and get something out of it, they start to see the results and that’s important.
“Our work rate, our intensity and our concentration were good and I felt it was some of the best football we’ve played since I took over.“I said to the players to compare that game to the first game of the season.
“We were all over the place at times in that opening game and Grays beat us comfortably 2-0 on the overall play.“It was men against boys at times that day, but you could see from the cup game – seven games later – the journey that we have already been on.
“The difference in the players between those two games – their awareness, their concentration and dealing with the physicality of the game – they had come on in leaps and bounds.
“It’s so important for the players to see that.
“When you are on a journey, you need the milestones along the way to reinforce what you are doing is right.
“That was why I was so pleased with the performance against Grays and not just the end result.”
Updated 17:14 - 12 Sep 2018 by swifty