The New Eyrie, Bedford Attendance: 268
Match report by Ian Pluck
The last match of the season saw Aylesbury United travel to the Eyrie to take on Bedford Town, looking to complete the double over the Eagles having won 2-1 at Thame in September. Manager Glyn Creaser made 3 changes ahead of the match, Bruno Brito, returning after missing the last 2 matches through illness, Nick Kalakoutis and Reece Cameron replaced the unavailable Alex Collard, Olly Stanbridge and Daniel Olusemo, who both took a place on the bench. This called for a change of shape, reverting to a more familiar 4-3-3 formation which had been used for much of the season. Facing them was a Bedford side who amazingly had only one player starting the match who played in the fixture earlier this season, that being Jemale McKenzie-Lowe, who played at centre back today having appeared up front in the earlier match.
The game started in beautifully sunny conditions, with rather surreally, blossom from the surrounding trees drifting across the pitch like confetti.
Frederick was involved again in the 15th minute, winning the ball in midfield and finding Brito wide on the right, his first time shot going wide of the far post.
The game was lacking in quality and having an end of season feel about it. However, this was to change in the 31st minute. A long ball forward saw Harpur leave his area and kick the ball out for a throw in level with the edge of the penalty area. Lea Coulter took a quick throw and found Sonny French unmarked on the angle of the box. With unerring accuracy, he unleashed a powerful shot which cannoned off the far post and into the net to give the Ducks the lead, his 11th goal of the season, drawing him level with strike partner Bruno Brito at the top of the scoring chart. 1-0 Aylesbury
As the half drew to a close, the home side had their first shot on goal. A good run down the right by full back Ben Sawyer saw him exchange passes with Lee Roache and advance into the penalty area. His shot from 15 yards was heading for the top corner before Jack Sillitoe flung out a strong arm to deflect the ball behind for a corner.
Half-time: Bedford 0-1 Aylesbury
Despite this attempt to freshen up the team, it was the visitors who started the half the better. 3 minutes in and Lea Coulter collected the ball wide on the left; he held the ball up well before passing infield to Reece Cameron, who in turn rolled it into the path of Jonny Miller, the full back’s well struck shot from 25 yards rising just above the bar.
On 56 minutes a drilled cross from Jake Bewley was narrowly missed by 3 Ducks strikers, the ball going all the way across the penalty area and out for a throw in. The ball was won back after the throw in, with Coulter and Cameron again combining to slide the ball into the path of Brito, who made no mistake from 12 yards and extend the Ducks lead (and regain his spot at the top of the scoring charts!) 2-0 Aylesbury
They say 2-0 is a dangerous lead, and it certainly proved to be the case again today, as it had at Royston 2 weeks ago. Inside two minutes the Eagles were back in the game. A long ball into the right channel saw veteran striker Leroy Griffiths win the ball ahead of Jack Wood, showing good strength and composure to find his strike partner Roache who netted his 20th goal of the season from 15 yards. 1-2
Two minutes later and the game was level. Omar Naseri did well down the left and passed to Roache, whose low cross was headed home by a stooping Griffiths, unmarked at the far post. 2-2
The quick response had the Ducks rocking and the hosts continued to dominate proceedings, going close on a number of occasions, before they did eventually take the lead in the 71st minute. A long ball down the left saw Ryan Kinnane in two minds whether to let the ball run out for a goal kick or clear it to safety. Unfortunately, he did neither, under pressure from Roache he lost the ball, allowing the striker to win the ball and advance into the area, where he picked out substitute Stanley 8 yards out who beat Sillitoe with ease. 3-2 Bedford
Five minutes later, Tre Mitford, on as a substitute for Cameron picked the ball up on the left wing and drifted infield, evading 3 tackles before getting a shot away, sadly it was just wide of Harpur’s goal.
Three minutes later, Olly Stanbridge won the ball in midfield and found Brito, who battled past 3 defenders but saw his shot rise above the bar.
With five minutes remaining the hosts had the chance to seal victory; a long ball forward saw Griffiths beat the offside line and advance unchallenged towards goal. However, Sillitoe was quickly off his line to narrow the angle, beating the shot away well.
In the next attack, Griffiths crossed to Roache, who controlled and turned well in the box, but his shot was too close to Sillitoe, who palmed the ball over the bar for a corner.
As the clock ticked down, the Ducks had two opportunities to level the match; first a 25 yard shot from Brito cleared the bar after good work from French, then in the dying seconds Brito won the ball on the right and passed infield to Coulter, who in turn found Mitford, but like his earlier effort his shot lacked accuracy or power to trouble the keeper.
That was to be the final action of the season for the Ducks, a disappointing way to bow out, losing a second successive away match from a position of dominance. However, a glance at the season’s results and the final table will reveal a much more satisfactory season than the previous one. We finished in 13th place in the table, with 55 points, as opposed to 19th position with 40 points last season. We had reached that 40 point mark this season by the beginning of February, rather than struggling for points into the last few weeks of last season to stay up. We doubled our number of home wins at Thame this season, scoring more and conceding less than last season. Last season our top scorer managed just 6 goals, this year, in Brito (12), French (11) and Coulter (9), we had 3 who scored 32 between them. Finally, it mustn’t be forgotten that we came very close to reaching the Southern League Cup final, so all in all a season of progress, however frustrating it might have seemed at times.
Next up is the Presentation Evening on Friday 5th May at Rivets, and the chance to thank the manager, his coaches and the players for their efforts this season and congratulate those chosen to win prizes.