Town turned in a decent performance against in-form Ashton, but a failure to take some gilt-edged chances cost them dearly.
Ashton were top of the form table having won their last five matches, but Town had Aaron Hollindrake and Chris Ridehalgh back in the starting line-up, although striker Mark Threlfall was missing due to the birth of his son at 6 a.m. on Saturday morning.
Ashton went ahead after 17 minutes when the failure to cut out a Jamie Harrison cross saw Adam Gilchrist unmarked at the far post, and he he had time to bring the ball under control and beat Lyle Davy’s right hand.
Two minutes later and Town should have equalised, as Joel Melia slipped a great ball through to Ridehalgh, and he twisted past a defender but, with only Ashton keeper Jason Foulds to beat, he lifted his shot just over the bar.
Davy saved well from Stephen Kay before Richard Livingston headed against the bar for the hosts.
Harry Thompson fired just wide after a good run from Anthony Pollard at the other end, and right on half-time, Thompson beat Foulds to the ball, but Melia’s shot was blocked by Kay.
Just after the break, the rain started, and with it the wind increased, making the conditions difficult.
Ashton thought they had scored again six minutes into the half when Daniel Mahoney slipped Michael Downing through, who slotted past Davy, butwas flagged off-side.
Adam Howard had a free kick from 30 yards well saved by Davy just before the hour mark, before Town introduced Melia, who was a constant thorn in the Ashton defence, released Neil Stansfield, but he was caught in two minds and his effort was neither a cross nor a shot.
Hollindrake brought a great save from Foulds, before sending another effort wide from a Melia pass.
But within two minutes. Gilchrist picked the ball up out wide and his shot deflected wickedly off a Town defender and flashed into the top corner of Davy’s net.
Shortly after the game was all over, as a cross saw Howard unmarked at the far post with the easiest of headers.
The match finished with Ashton firmly in the driving seat, Davy having to make another good save from a Kay shot, and Howard hitting the foot of the post as the match moved into injury time.
Tomorrow Town are at West Didsbury and Chorlton, before the Boxing Day derby at home to Silsden.