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16 February 2019

uhlsport football kitPremier Division

Ascot United 1 Wantage Town 1
Ascot United were held to a frustrating one-all draw against Wantage Town on Saturday. The Yellamen were good value for a half time-lead and only visiting ‘keeper Curtis Meare stood between them and a hatful, before the visitors struck back in the second half to leave Ascot still searching for a win.
Ascot were seeking their first league win of 2019 as they clung onto third place, whereas Wantage were very much in the title hunt with games and hand as they look to outmuscle their other three realistic title challengers.

As it transpired, Wantage’s first half display was anything but title-challenging, although Ascot took much credit for a display that warranted more than a one-nil half time lead. Their goal came after just ten minutes, when Luqman Kassim glanced a header over the advancing Meare after Geoff Kibaki had cut the ball back for Jonny Denton to cross.

Ascot should have led after just three minutes, although Sheridan Campbell couldn’t dig the ball out and spin with his back to goal from just three yards out after Louis Bouwers’ header had been cleared off the line, and his effort on the turn was sliced wide. Meare would thwart the home side throughout the half – most impressively with a fine block from Dan Price’s ferocious shot at the end of an incisive move – and just before that he had stood up well to deny the same player; Campbell having turned provider for both efforts.

Kassim’s looping header lacked power and direction as Ascot threatened again, whereas a desperately poor Wantage only had a trio of corners to show for their meagre efforts as half time approached, the latter fizzing through the six-yard box untouched and out for a goal kick. Seven minutes after the restart, Kibaki would fire through Meare’s legs and into the net only to see it chalked off for handball – earning him a booking – although Wantage would prove to be an increasing threat as the half wore on.

George Lock was well-placed to avert danger after 63 minutes but the ensuing Wantage corner saw Chris Jackson head over when unmarked. However, Jackson was on hand to convert moments later after head tennis in the Ascot defence; 66 minutes played and one-all.

Ascot would finish strongly and Harry Laflin stabbed a half-chance over the bar, substitute Kai Walters headed over from a Chris Ellis Corner and Jonny Denton’s effort was blocked in added time after Price had tried to unpick the Wantage defence, but it had taken a quite superb save from Sam Gray five minutes earlier to keep Ascot level when he tipped Ben Cook’s bullet header over when it looked destined for the roof of the net. Ascot’s wait for a league win in 2019 continues, and the two sides will lock horns again in the cup next month.
Ascot United: Gray, Lock, Haworth, Laflin, Bouwers, Ellis, Kibaki, Denton, Campbell (Sankoh), Price, Kassim (Walters). Subs unused: Sullivan, Carlisle, Regragui

Ascot United 1 Wantage Town 1 (Independent report from Arthur Strand)
The visitors at the Racecourse ground were Wantage who are second from top of the Uhlsport Hellenic League Premier Division. With Sam Gray in goal, Ascot took the start with Louis Bouwers receiving a ball giving him a chance to head at goal but this was cleared from the line to Sheridan Campbell who was not in a comfortable position to finish and he miscued the ball wide. After a corner kick by Ascot, Wantage escaped and Jack Dunmall made ground towards the Ascot corner flag. Sam Gray, in the Ascot keeping role, collected the ball and the host team succeeded in a sequence of accurate passing until offside was flagged. However, with 10 minutes gone, Geoff Kibaki threaded the ball through to Jonny Denton who sent a cross that Luqman Kassim headed over Curtis Meare who was off his line into the unattended goal behind the latter. This gave Ascot a slender lead. Restarting, Wantage made a break with Chris Jackson who threaded a diagonal ball out wide from the middle of the Ascot half but Gray ended up with the ball. Chris Ellis, a long throw-in specialist figured throughout the match and Sheridan Campbell, in the Wantage area saw the ball shoot over the bar. Following on from this Wantage made a break but not too far and the ball arrived back with Meare. leaving an Ascot player injured on the turf. A drop ball by Keeper Meare restarted the action and Steve Robertson covered a lot of ground but, however, the ball went out of play. Brad Cox from the back of the queue, sent the ball direct to Gray. Ellis and a long throw-in became a free kick to Wantage inside their area. The ball then returned to Ascot who began a promising move in the right direction but was stopped before an approach to goal could be anticipated. Ellis two long throws, one from each flank saw the second reaching the forwards, with Kibaki and Campbell combining but no finish from close to goal. A high ball entered Ascot's area from a free kick and went behind for a goal kick. A free kick came Ascot's way after Dan Comer cleared the ball out for Wantage. Dan Price and a free kick was saved, then Jonny Denton took a longer range shot but Meare saved without a problem. After a throw in, Wantage missed with a wide shot then reached Ascot's area again, gaining a corner and another from the opposite side plus a third but still Ben Cook threaded the ball through the crowded Ascot area with no joy for Wantage. At he other end, Kibaki and Campbell gave chase to a loose ball but Meare won the race. A free kick to Wantage saw the ball out to the left wing and the effort soared over the bar. Ascot then made ground and forced a corner kick with Meare responding.by leaping higher than Ascot forwards and punching the ball clear. A foul on skipper Bouwers meant a free kick but play continued in midfield until half-time.

Wantage must have had a team-talk at half time and responded because they were much improved in the second half. A free kick their way led to Ascot getting back the ball and making good progress although the Wantage defence Kibaki received a yellow card, for hand-ball as his shot slipped into the net and was disallowed 7 minutes into the second half. Wantage worked back into scot's area and from an angle, the ball collided with the side rigging. Chris Jackson had a chance but it went out over the top but on 66 minutes he was low on the turf when the ball drifted out of a heading game around the area arrived close enough to hook the ball through the players low into Ascot's net, levelling up the score.. Wantage gained a corner kick and then another from the opposite side plus one more which Gray claimed. A natty mule kick by Ascot near the Wantage area was followed up although Meare ran out off his line and hoofed the ball into touch a good distance upfield. Escaping from that attack, Wantage upped their game although a weak attempt proved easy for Gray. Substitute Walters then got stuck in to the game battling for Ascot and creating a corner kick. Chris Ellis came into the limelight with another long throw-in and an ensuing corner and the header flew over the bar. Sankoh, replacing Campbell, made his presence felt but the next highlight was a superb header at goal by Cook and an equally superb save by Gray palming the ball over the bar for a corner. Ascot took a free kick but then Wantage gained a free kick when Ascot were caught offside. Race and chase but Wantage keeper won - just. Jamie Howarth sent the ball towards the Wantage goal but it continued across the face of goal, a pass that did not work out as wished. Another attempt by Ascot was blocked in defence then Wantage keeper Meare had an easy take. Wantage remain 2nd and Ascot are 4th in the table. Next Saturday Ascot visit Reading City at the Rivermoor, Scours Lane, Tilehurst.

Tuffley Rovers 4 Ardley United 0
Rovers returned to the familiarity of their Glevum Park home after a tiring road-trip which had seen them take five points from the nine available out of visits to Virginia Water, Reading City and Ascot United. With eight home league matches still to play, more than any other club in their division apart from Reading and Windsor, this visit from the Oxfordshire club gave Rovers the first of many opportunities to climb away from trouble near the foot of the table. Ardley United arrived in Gloucestershire in 15th place and although they seemed to be in a safe enough position to retain their Premier Division status, they knew there was no margin for error. With only two victories from their twelve away matches so far, this was an important fixture for Tuffley’s visitors as well as for the hosts. As it was, Rovers had a very productive afternoon; an emphatic four-goal victory over opponents who do not travel well, a clean sheet for the goalkeeper and his defence, a huge boost to their goal-difference and rising one place in the table above Abingdon United, who went down to a heavy defeat at Windsor.

There was little in the opening minutes to indicate that Tuffley would be heading for only their second home league win of the season. Manager Mark Pritchett elected to start with all three of the men he had brought on as substitutes at Ascot a week earlier so this meant a first Rovers home game for Adam Bloomfield. The personnel in the defence and the shape of that defence were unchanged from the match in Berkshire seven days previously. Ardley kicked off playing towards the training ground end but there was little in the early exchanges that predicted the tetchiness and confrontation the second half would bring. Rovers goalkeeper Luke Merchant twice had problems clearing the ball to the distance he is capable of but the visitors were unable to profit from this, before Conor Harris’ free-kick from a promising position, twenty yards out, sailed over the crossbar.

Merchant, who quickly recovered from some early nervy moments, had to dive smartly to his left to make a save and his defenders then had to scramble to clear the ball away to safety. The ‘keeper also had to come out to the edge of his area to smother the ball at the feet of Troy Bryan but it was another of his own poor clearances that had led to this chance. Despite plenty of Ardley pressure, with just over half an hour played Rovers took the lead in sensational style. Kieran Alder chased a ball played forward over the top of the Ardley defence, won possession and then lashed a twenty-yard shot with his right foot which flew past Christian Lawrence and nestled high up in the side-netting. Within two minutes Sam Hill tried a shot from the same distance but Lawrence saved that one. Not to be denied, Rovers would soon double their lead though when Alder steered a perfect pass to his right which Dominic Kent ran on to and pushed the ball carefully and accurately into the far corner.

Sam Hill then needed treatment for an injury so Rovers were forced to make a relatively early change and bring on Will Dawes in his place. Dawes got into the game immediately and had a very lively ten minutes leading up to the interval. A third home goal by Bloomfield was disallowed because Herbert had tugged an Ardley defender to the ground as a cross came in from the right; Alder’s free-kick after Warren Mann had been fouled was headed goalwards by Dawes but grabbed by Lawrence and the half ended when yet another foul on Mann resulted in a free-kick which Paul Carter took but when Lawrence caught that kick under pressure from Alder the referee brought the first period to a close.

Ardley’s approach to the second period was very positive. They saw more of the ball in the opening ten minutes than they had done in the whole of the first half. A corner taken by Harris reached Sam Jenkins, whose shot was saved. The visitors then made a triple-substitution, bringing on McKirnan, Giles and Yusuf and when another corner came in from the right it was McKirnan who fired a fierce shot towards goal only to see it hit one of his own team-mates. Earlier in the season they might have buckled under pressure, but Rovers weathered this brief storm and were soon making chances of their own. Alder ran clear, pushed the ball to one side of the advancing goalkeeper and was clipped by him as he went the other side of him. But the ball had enough pace on it to roll into the net without him needing to follow it in. There was immediately a melee of players from both sides scuffling on the edge of the penalty-area and just inside it and the aftermath of this was that Ardley ‘keeper Lawrence was shown a yellow card. The referee was a busy man because moments before the third goal he had issued a straight card to Jenkins for stamping on Bloomfield’s leg.

It wasn’t a surprise that Jake Rhodes came on for Bloomfield shortly after Ashley Bird came on for Mann, and it was Bird who would have the final say in this match when he, like Alder before him, raced through to be confronted by a goalkeeper charging towards him and tucked the ball neatly past him and into the net. Rovers exorcised a lot of demons with an hour and a half’s hard work. They started the season with seven straight home defeats in all competitions. They now have seven homes left, all in the League. But the balance has definitely shifted. In taking ten points from the last eighteen available in an unbeaten run of six games they have not only climbed up the table a bit but also dragged other clubs (including Ardley!) into the mess that they have worked so hard to extricate themselves from. This should give the squad plenty of confidence as it plays its games in hand over many of the clubs above them in the coming weeks, and although Ardley stay in fifteenth place, the worry for them is that could still be caught by some of the clubs below them.

One East

Didcot Town Development 0 Chalvey Sports 1
The story of this league encounter at Loop Meadow Stadium revolved around a 15th minute incident when a Didcot defender was wayward with a back pass allowing a Chalvey forward to cross in to the box. An onrushing Chalvey attacker was deemed to have been pushed and the Didcot defender was red carded. In addition a penalty was awarded and Bryan Taylor duly dispatched it to put the away team one up and ultimately take all three points. 

Before this both teams had looked lively and Keiran Davies shot over the bar. Once down to ten men Didcot were very much still in the game and Chalvey had five players booked throughout the match as they sought to stem Didcot attacks. Taylor Janes had a long range shot and Ross MacDonald’s perfect cross found Davies whose downward header was not accurate enough. Sam Eeles in the Didcot goal was called on to make a good save with his feet. 

Didcot opened strongly in the second half and good work by Caelen Isaac saw his cut back just fail to reach Taylor Janes. Chalvey had a dangerous shot over the bar before a nice Didcot build up found MacDonald putting Jack Hollister though on goal but he was harshly deemed offside. Didcot continued with some nice build up play Callum Young headed over the bar and MacDonald and Janes both tested the Chalvey keeper with dangerous shots. 

Well done to Didcot for playing 75 minutes plus with ten men and providing a highly competitive game however Chalvey’s tactics of theatrical acting and constant fouling detracted from making this a classic match to watch. 

Thame Rangers 3 Abingdon Town 1
This Hellenic League encounter at The ASM Stadium pitched Thame Rangers, who are unbeaten in 2019, against Abingdon who have struggled for form recently. Thame Rangers fielded another young squad and started the game the better of the two sides. Passages of play down both wings created openings and the first goal came in the 17th minute as Miles Baxter crossed in from the left for Dan Hatton to put the home side one up. Soon after Patrick Buston missed a header from close range unchallenged and Hatton shot wide. Thame’s second goal came in the 27th minute from the same supplier as the first but this time it was Buston at the far post who slotted home inside the box. Buston missed another free header soon after when well placed and Abingdon’s James Beesley in goal saved well when Buston went clean through on his own. Miles Baxter and Christian Deste tried to get in on the action but both had efforts that went wide. Abingdon threatened late on in the half and had an effort just go wide of the far post.

Abingdon regrouped at half time. They began the second half much stronger than they did in the first as they attempted to get back in the game. Thame continued to have efforts on goal. Buston threatened constantly with his pace and on another day would have been rewarded with a better return. Abingdon got their reward and were back in the game as Thame misplaced a pass in midfield and an effort from distance sailed over Dan Bowker into the roof of the net. Thame responded well and Buston raced clear again but failed to beat Beesley once more. Luke Hurley then repeated the very same when clean through as Beesley came to the rescue. Buston persistence paid off as he put the game to bed with the goal of the game on 77 minutes. Once again he raced clear, composed himself and curled a left footer in to the far top corner to seal the points for the home side.

Another good day for Thame Rangers, a solid performance and another great result for a very young team. Abingdon Town to their credit performed well on the day and we wish them all the best for the future. Next league game for Thame Rangers is the reverse of this one on Saturday March 2 at Abingdon Town.

One West

Cheltenham Saracens  7 New College Academy 1 
Today’s match saw us facing bottom of the table New College Swindon. We were hoping for an easy win, seeing as New College had only won one game so far this season, but would we get it?  The first quarter of the match was disappointing for us, with numerous crosses being played into the box with no one waiting on the end, and the offside flag catching us out more times than we’d have liked. Our best chance came in the 11th minute, when Sean McKeon had a shot pushed over the bar by the New College keeper’s fingertips. Dave Domm made a couple of brilliant saves through the course of the match, but more about that later on. 

We finally pulled ourselves together in the 21st minute when Harlie Price opened the scoring with a great goal from close range. The keeper blocked his first shot, but couldn’t control it, and Harlie wasted no time in burying his second attempt. Josh Goodhall was called up as team captain today, and he certainly led by example. The 26th minute saw him make a great run down the middle of the pitch, finding himself through 1-on-1 with the New College keeper. But his final shot pulled just wide of the goal and ended up going behind for a goal kick. Still, the build up was brilliant with Goodhall cutting through the opposition’s midfield and defence with ease.  Sam Mason also put in a great performance in the first half, proving himself to be both speedy and agile down the wing. The 32nd minute saw him sprinting down the side of the pitch, ball well controlled at his feet, but his pass could only find an offside Price. The first half played out reasonably evenly, with Sarras only able to score 1 goal against the struggling New College Swindon side. We had one last try in the 43rd minute, where McKeon had another go from inside the box, but again New College’s Domm made another great save. 

The second half started off fairly slowly, and we started to wonder if we weren’t going to make the most of this chance to improve our goal difference, but things finally heated up in the 51st minute when McKeon got his long awaited goal. As we hurried to jot down the times and scorer, we almost missed the seemingly instant response from New College Swindon. Their Oliver Kushal scored a surprise looping goal from distance to bring the scoreline to 2-1. But we weren’t going to sit back and defend the lead. Whatever had been said in the changing room at halftime must have worked, because we seemed to really step it up a gear after the 55th minute, when Harlie Price deftly kicked the ball over the keeper for his second goal of the match. And just a minute later, Price swapped his brace for a hat trick when he scored a cool, calm and collected goal from close range. 4-1 now, are you keeping up? 

Josh Goodhall had another shot in the 65th minute, but once again the New College keeper pulled off a cracking save, and forced the ball on to the post. The 70th minute saw Carl Griffiths score a neat little tap in to bring the score to 5-1. Things quietened down for 10 minutes or so, until Mason crossed the ball to Griffiths again, but this time he could only head the ball behind. Price almost scored his 4th goal in the 81st minute, but his shot, perfectly weighted up and over the keeper, hit the side post. The 83rd minute saw Sam Mason rewarded for his hard work when he kept calm and chipped the ball straight over the keeper to score a nice little tap in. 

The final goal was arguably the goal of the match when Kai Mahon scored a belter of a goal from distance, sending the ball smashing into the back of the net. That brought the score to 7-1. With almost no stoppage time added on, the Ref blew the whistle to call time on today’s match. New College Swindon did well to only concede 1 goal in the first half, but ultimately Sarras’ hard work and determination paid off and we managed to improve our goal difference considerably. We now have a 3 point lead at the top of the table, and although Easington Sports have a game in hand, our goal difference is +10 on theirs, which could prove vital later on in the season in our battle for promotion. 

Tytherington Rocks 0 Easington Sports 2  (away view)
Easington were back to winning ways on the road after a scrappy performance away to the Rocks. The home side have been far more competitive in recent weeks and were hard to break down in a game that at times was easy to forget. A goal in either half from Callum Convey and George Coombes (pictured) secured the victory for Sports meaning they sit second in the league behind Cheltenham Saracens. 

Sports found it hard to get into the game for the second Hellenic game in a row. The uneven pitch certainly made it harder to get the ball down to play which suited Tytherington who were compact and well organised across the back line. In a game of few chances, Callum Convey got the all important breakthrough goal on the half hour mark. The midfielder followed up his own shot to knock the rebound past the keeper. 0-1 at half time. 

The pattern of play in the second half was similar to the first The Rocks were competitive and pressed well to ensure that Sports had no real rhythm to their play. In fact the home side had 2 good chances to score Adam Rimmer made a save down low to his right and then the Tytherington striker dragged a shot past the post after being played through 1v1 with Rimmer. All three Easington substitutes came on and made an impact. Andrew Stidder and George Coombes both came on together and began to stretch the defence using their pace. Coombes had a good chance to score but missed kicked and then moments later showed better composure to slot past the Tytherington Rocks keeper after being played through. At 0-2 up Sports were comfortable but they also had two late chances in the game to extend the lead. Joe Eyre and Craig Robinson shot over the bar from inside the box. 

Overall manager Ben Milner was happy with the three points and the clean sheet which is important now that Sports need to build an unbeaten run again in the league.  Next up will be Langley Sports on Tuesday evening. 7.30pm kick off at Addison Road. 

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