Hillgrounds Leisure, Kempston, Bedford Attendance: 105
Aylesbury twice came from behind to secure a 3-2 win at Kempston Rovers, on a ground the Walnut Boys had only once previously been beaten in 2015/16.
A game littered with talking points had seen United give a better performance than late, but their quality football was still interspersed with individual errors that allowed Danny Watson to net a first half brace, despite Kempston having been reduced to ten-men by the time he scored his second.
That red card was the major talking point, and game defining moment, as the resulting penalty brought Aylesbury level against the run of play, and the Ducks made their numerical advantage pay dividends in the second half with the aid of a half-time tactical reshuffle.
With Gavin Hinds-Cadette and Ollie Hogg both out injured, skipper Jack Wood was back in defence having missed the weekend’s abandoned game, and, perhaps with one eye on Saturday’s FA Trophy trip to Hastings, there was a completely changed front three of fit-again Lea Coulter flanked by Taylor Collins and Vijon Sentain.
Kempston looked every bit the side flying high at the top of the division as they started strongly, left back Seb Simpson making a telling early run before picking out the unmarked Watson who could only head over.
Given the early flow of the game it came as no surprise when the hosts went ahead after thirteen minutes. A right wing corner kick saw Zaki Oualah only able to pat the ball down under pressure, and Watson was lurking to poke it home from close range amongst the scramble. 1-0 Kempston
Aylesbury’s first shot on goal came two minutes later, Greg Williams seeing his effort charged down after Sonny French’s free kick had fallen to him, and it was a similar story at the other end for Watson after a cross into him was levered down by strike partner Jamaine Ivy.
The Walnut Boys were still very much the dominant force, and a clever finish from Sam Johnson nearly produced a second as he ran clean through and flicked the ball towards the bottom corner with the outside of a boot, Oualah alert enough to save.
Johnson then went close again when the ball ran through to him after Ieuan Riley’s blocked shot, a fierce strike taking a wicked deflection to send it whistling just over the bar.
Quite against the run of play, a moment of magic from French contributed to an Aylesbury equaliser. His weaving run took him past three Rovers before releasing a neat through ball for Coulter who was unceremoniously taken out from behind by Munashe Sundrie.
Cue penalty and red card, to the derision of home supporters who believed the rules regarding last man fouls to have been changed, although the actual law now states that ‘accidental’ fouls should not be punished with a red card and Mr Donnellan was correct in his decision.
Still there was nearly ‘redemption’ for Kempston as Martin Conway got down to make a good save from Bewley’s penalty, but the Ducks defender was quickest to the rebound to tuck the ball into the empty net and level the scores. 1-1
Seven minutes later Ellis Hercules should have given the Ducks an unlikely lead when French’s corner was helped on at the near post, only for the big defender to plant a header over the crossbar.
Instead, it was Kempston who took full advantage of another mistake to restore their lead. Bewley lost out just inside the Ducks half, with the ball sprayed into the path of Watson who had no hesitation in clipping a sublime first time lob over Oualah where it nestled just inside the post, making himself the league’s leading scorer in the process. 2-1 Kempston
Sentain became the next man to waste a chance for Aylesbury when he powered a header off target from Collins inswinging corner kick, Coulter going closer still just before the break when he was set up by Sentain but saw his early shot fly just wide with Conway scrambling across his goal.
Half-time: Kempston 2-1 Aylesbury
Bruno Brito emerged from the bench after six weeks out with a hamstring injury, as Aylesbury opted to give themselves an extra man in midfield and switch to a three at the back system.
It paid dividends as the Ducks immediately took the game to their hosts from the restart. Coulter went close, whilst a number of corners came to nothing, before an equaliser materialised on fifty minutes.
French was the architect again as his corner kick wasn’t dealt with, and Coulter – himself also having missed the previous five games with a chest infection – was in the right place to hook the ball into the net. 2-2
Coulter could have had another just three minutes afterwards when the excellent French slipped him in with a through ball, but he was unable to beat Conway when one-on-one.
Despite the one-way traffic in the opening stages of the second half, it still required a spectacular save from Oualah to keep the scores level on the hour mark. A 25-yard free kick deflected off the top of the wall, looping up to wrong foot the keeper who, despite going the wrong way, managed to adjust in mid air and tip it wide.
French capped his night with a deserved goal as Aylesbury scored their third with a quarter of the game remaining. A raking pass from Ryan Kinnane picked out Coulter whose close range header was saved, and as the ball came out to French a couple of shimmies later he bent home a neat finish. 3-2 Aylesbury
Ahead for the first time of the night, the Ducks now had something to protect, and they had to dig deep at times to retain their lead. A deflected Johnson effort fell kindly to Oualah, whilst Watson would have wanted to do better with a turn and shot that Oualah was able to comfortably field soon afterwards.
At the other end Greg Williams nearly conjured up a spectacular fourth when the ball popped up for him to curl a shot towards the top corner, but Conway was there to pluck it out of the air.
The Kempston stopper was beaten all ends up in the last minute of normal time though, as Brito lead a counter attack with the hosts having overcommitted men forward, the Portuguese lofting a very long range shot over the stranded goalkeeper but just the wrong side of the post.
With the referee finding a full nine minutes of stoppage time, there was still time for further drama, and in the sixth over the ninety that man Watson had a gilt-edged chance to salvage a point for his side.
Substitute Dom Marsala stood up an exceptional cross for his target man who, with the whole goal to aim at, somehow managed to volley the ball down into the ground where it bounced up and over the target, to Aylesbury’s great relief.
A minute later and Kempston were reduced to nine men as Simpson was shown a second yellow card in as many minutes, but it was to finally be the last action of the game as United wrapped up an impressive three points.