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Match Report

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Thanks to Ian Pluck for this match report

After the disappointment of going out of the Challenge Trophy on Wednesday evening, the Ducks began a run of 3 games in a week against teams at the top of the table. A match against Ampthill is always going to be a competitive affair, given the fact that the management of both teams know each other well, and the return of a number of ex Ducks, now playing for the opposition.

While Warren Garcia missed the chance to face his old team due to an unfortunate injury sustained last week, Tyrone Taylor and Lea Coulter did start the match. A 3rd former player, Hateley Mercer was on the bench. The Ducks made 3 changes following Wednesday’s defeat by Oxhey; Steve Hatch returning to the centre of defence in place of Derek Brown, Greg Williams came into midfield allowing Jack Wood to start at right back, and Louis Austin up front in place of Kevin Gallen. Paul Edgeworth returned on the bench alongside Joey Acheampong, Lee Bircham & manager Tony Joyce.

The match started in a lively manner, with the visitors first to attack. A cross into the box saw John Mulholland only able to find Lea Coulter on the right hand side of the box. He took the opportunity to remind the home fans of his skill on the ball as, without hesitation, he hit a first time volley from 25 yards which Jack Sillitoe in goal was relieved to see bounce off the top of the bar and away for a goal kick.

Recovering from this early scare, the Ducks started to get a grip on the game in midfield, and in the 3rd minute, a delightfully lofted ball by Ben Butler saw Stacey Field easily beat the offside trap to lob the visiting keeper from the edge of the box. 1-0 Aylesbury

This was just the start the home side needed, and they went on to dominate the first half, urged on by the management. In the 14th minute, Stacey Field had a chance to add to the lead. His initial shot was well saved by Kennard in the Ampthill goal; the ball rebounded to Louis Austin on the edge of the 6 yard box who headed it across goal to Field whose follow up shot was blocked by the keeper, only as far as Zac Reynolds, but again the keeper was up to the task, and made a fine double save.

Chances were coming quite regularly as the Ducks passed their way through the midfield. 7 minutes later, Reynolds went on a typically mazy run down the left flank, finally feeding Austin who got the ball out of his feet, beat 2 men but could only chip the ball wide of the goal. Austin was again the outlet 5 minutes later, as he picked up the ball on the right wing. His cross was only cleared as far as Ben Hammond who fizzed a first time shot a foot wide of the near post with the keeper beaten.

In the 37th minute, a rare attack from Ampthill saw a fine diagonal ball from Paul Lyon find Coulter in space on the right side of the box. Only a fine defensive block from Reynolds prevented anything worse than a corner being conceded.

As half time approached, the Ducks fans were resigning themselves to ending the half with just the single goal to show for their domination. However, things got a whole lot better in the 41st minute. A ball down the left wing by Reynolds found Ben Baines, who moved the ball on to Austin. He beat his marker with ease, finding Reynolds who had continued his run and found himself on the 6 yard line. The finish wasn’t a thing of beauty, as it bobbled off his left foot, wrong-footing the keeper, but all that mattered to the home faithful was that the lead had been doubled, at that psychologically important time, just before the interval. 2-0 Aylesbury

Half-time: Aylesbury 2-0 Ampthill

As the teams came out for the second half, what had been a pleasant if chilly day for a game of football changed for the worse. The Ducks turned round to attack the clubhouse end, with a strong wind and driving rain in their faces. Undeterred though, they started the half in fine fashion. Louis Austin brought the ball down well on the half way line and left his defender for dead as he strode down the left wing; reaching the penalty area he squared the ball to Field 8 yards out, but sadly his finish wasn’t strong enough to beat Kennard, who managed to gather the ball comfortably.

With the conditions in their favour, and no doubt words of wisdom from their management still ringing in their ears, Ampthill came back strongly. A cross from the left side saw the ball cleared only as far as Michael Lyon, whose volley from 25 yards only just cleared the bar.

Shortly afterwards, Jack Wood found Austin on the left, who squared it to the near post where an important challenge from Steve Flux forced the ball just wide of the post for a corner as Field looked favourite to extend the Duck’s lead. Ampthill came back again, in the 59th minute a fine cross from the left found Lyon again unmarked in the area; unfortunately for him, his diving header flew just wide of the goal.

The action swung straight to the other end, as yet another attack down the left flank, this time by Baines, as he left his defender in his wake, crossing to the near post, where Field made no mistake, heading home his second of the match, easing the nerves of the Ducks fans. 3-0 Aylesbury

Field almost scored his 3rd hat-trick of the season 7 minutes later. A corner from the left taken by Ben Hammond was cleared to the striker on the edge of the box. His strong drive from 20 yards must have been seen late by the keeper as it went through a mass of players, but he made a fine save down to his left to divert the ball away for another corner. After being creator for much of the game, Louis Austin almost got himself on the scoresheet in the 77th minute. Great interplay between Ben Butler and Ben Hammond found the striker 25 yards out. He hit a fine drive, but was disappointed to see it rise just over the bar.

Following this, Tony Joyce made his first substitutions of the game, Paul Edgeworth and Joey Acheampong (making his 100th appearance for the Ducks) replaced the impressively industrious Ben Hammond and a limping Field. Just 3 minutes after entering the fray, Acheampong had a gilt edged chance to mark his milestone with a goal. Edgeworth brought the ball down well on the half way line, and fed in striker down the right channel. He was helped by Flux slipping as he turned to give chase, but chose to shoot when 20 yards out, seeing Kennard make another vital save, and diverting the ball wide for another corner.

Two minutes later, in the 83rd minute, Ampthill got a goal to get themselves back in the game. A long ball down the right saw what appeared to be a foul on Mulholland as he fell to the ground just inside the penalty area. As the referee waved play on, Mackenzie took the ball and squared it to substitute Cooksley who beat Sillitoe in the home goal from 8 yards out. 1-3

There then followed a few nervy minutes for the Ducks, as Ampthill pressed forward in search of a second and a lifeline back into the game. In the 89th minute, Mercer, on as a substitute, was lucky not to see yellow. A late tackle in the centre circle left Greg Williams in a heap, however, despite blowing up for a free kick, and administering a firm talking to, the referee decided he hadn’t seen enough to award a card.

The Ducks finished the match as they had started it; in the 92nd minute Edgeworth again showed his vision as he picked out Baines run down the left with a sublime pass. He sprinted away down the flank and very coolly flicked the ball over the onrushing keeper with the outside of his boot. A goal his performance definitely deserved. 4-1 Aylesbury

Soon after the referee blew the whistle for full time, and the whole Ducks squad celebrated in style. Before the match, many would have expected today’s match to be a tough assignment; however, the management got the team selection, tactics and motivation right to seal a fine win against one of the form teams in the league, in what has to be the best 90 minute performance of the season so far.

The week ahead sees the team travel to both Oxhey Jets, looking for revenge for Wednesday’s defeat in the Challenge Trophy, and top of the table Dunstable Town. If they can repeat the team spirit, togetherness and performance of today, they need fear nothing!