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Match Report

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Report courtesy of Ian Pluck

Following an outstanding performance at top of the table Rugby in midweek, it was perhaps no surprise that manager Tony Joyce elected to field an unchanged starting XI for this afternoon’s match at Oak Tree Rd. Jason Blackett and Greg Williams both returned to the squad and took their places on the subs bench, while Richard Armstrong was again missing, having been loaned to Newport Pagnell to get some match practice.

However, if ever a match could be described as an “After the Lord Mayor’s Show” event, today was it on many counts. Compared to the lush flat playing surface at Rugby, the pitch at Marlow was very heavy, with players struggling to keep their feet, especially in the early stages. The passing game that Rugby had played was very much at odds with Marlow’s more direct style, and it has to be said, in the first half especially, the Ducks failed to get to grips with the physical style of their opponents.

The first scoring opportunity of the match fell to Marlow top scorer Jon Bennett. Full back Jordan Lee-Brown broke down the flank and crossed towards the box. The ball was half cleared by Lee Grace only as far as Bennett who dragged his shot tamely wide from 15 yards. The first mildly controversial incident of the match saw Shane Wood led from the pitch with a bloody nose after an aerial challenge with home centre forward Michael Bartley, who escaped without sanction from the ref, despite appearing to lead with his elbow. Straight after, the Ducks were indebted to skipper Jack Wood, filling in for his injured brother in the centre of defence, for a fantastic saving tackle to deny Ian Davies on the edge of the box as he was about to shoot. Two minutes later, Bennett had another fine opportunity, this time seeing Jack Sillitoe touching his long range drive over the bar and away for a corner. Marlow were playing with a very high defensive line, with keeper Simon Grant quick to leave his area to sweep up. The tactics were very frustrating, with the Ducks strikers consistently being either caught offside, or unable to reach the through ball. However, in the 24th minute, top scorer Stacey Field beat the offside trap and chased a defence splitting pass from Liam Smyth. He drew the keeper, and sent him the wrong way as he shot, only to see the keeper’s leg save the ball and divert it away to safety.

Marlow capitalised on this escape in the next attack. Davies found Bennett on the left wing, he got beyond Steve Hatch and squared the ball to Bartley in the 6 yard box, who had the simplest of tasks to tap the ball home and open the scoring. Just 3 minutes later, Hatch headed a cross away, only as far as home skipper Richard Witt, who strike from 20 yards was superbly turned round the post by Sillitoe. The Ducks were finding it hard to make any real headway against the offside trap, and Marlow threatened again in the 35th minute. A scramble in the penalty area saw the ball bounce off Bennett and then Bartley, before falling to Davies lying on the floor in the 6 yard box. He swung his foot and hooked the ball narrowly wide with Sillitoe helpless. Just two minutes later, Marlow doubled their lead. Awarded a contentious free kick 22 yards out, Richie Whittingham stepped up to curl a fantastic shot into the top corner with Sillitoe unable to reach the ball.

As play restarted, Bartley and Jack Wood challenged for a ball in the centre of the pitch, with the Aylesbury skipper coming off second best to Bartley’s elbow, just as his brother had earlier in the match. This time, the referee showed Bartley the yellow card while Wood received extended treatment, when it could and perhaps should have been red. The final action of the half saw Danny Jones set free down the left by a defence splitting pass from Field. However, defender Chris Ovenden did well to get back and deny him a shooting opportunity. That was to be Jones’ last involvement of the match, as Zack Reynolds was introduced in his place after the interval. The Ducks started the second half much better, no doubt after a few words of advice from the management about how to counter the frustrating but vulnerable offside trap. As an attacking force, Aylesbury were much more effective, with Reynolds providing more energy down the left and sparking most of the early attempts on goal. In the 52nd minute, he played a one-two with Jack Wood and crossed to Paul Edgeworth whose shot on target was blocked by the home defence. Two yellow cards in quick succession, first for Gabbidon, then Moran for strong tackles set the scene for a physical second half. Marlow were content to sit back and soak up the pressure the Ducks were exerting, breaking forward only occasionally. Looking for a goal to get back into the match, Jason Blackett was introduced for Lee Grace in the 56th minute. Things didn’t go exactly to plan though, as Marlow extended their lead on 58 minutes. Bartley shot from 15 yards and forced a save from Sillitoe, but the defence couldn’t get the ball clear, allowing Whittingham to score his second of the match from 8 yards out. 4 minutes later, the Marlow goal had an amazing escape, as a Liam Smyth corner was headed down by Jack Wood but the ball was scrambled away and over the bar from on the line by the defenders. Despite being 3 down, it was still the away side who were enjoying more time on the ball and looking most threatening. Zack Reynolds was next to go close, Bill Morgan’s long ball found him in space, but his shot from 15 yards lacked any real conviction and went harmlessly wide of the target without troubling Grant. This was followed by a similar effort from Edgeworth, now playing on the right of midfield, again his shot failing to trouble the keeper. A possible turning point in the match came in the 70th minute. Blackett broke the offside trap and advanced on Grant in the home goal. Having pushed the ball past him, Blackett was brought down by the keeper 30 yards from goal, leaving the referee no choice but to show the red card. With no sub keeper on the bench, midfielder Adam Richards put on the keepers jersey. Just 4 minutes later, an Aylesbury free kick was cleared as far as Reynolds on the half way line. He returned it to Steve Hatch in space on the left. He brought the ball down and advanced towards the sub keeper and coolly slotted it past him and inside the near post. All of a sudden, the formerly composed Marlow back line seemed to be disintegrating. The Ducks seemed to be breaking the off side trap at will, Liam Smyth having the next opportunity when Keith Williams found him 35 yards from goal. Sadly though, his attempt at goal lacked venom and drifted wide. Ben Baines was the last sub to make an appearance 5 minutes from the end of normal time. Straight into the action, he met a Williams corner and saw his header cleared off the line. As the game moved into added on time, the Ducks scored a goal reminiscent of those they had scored against Beaconsfield and St Ives recently. Again a long clearance was mis-headed by a defender, Field collected the ball and crossed for Jack Wood to head in from 10 yards. That was to be the end of the scoring, but what had been a rather bad tempered affair, with 6 yellow cards and a red for the home side, ended with Zack Reynolds also seeing red. Following a hard tackle from home skipper Witt, he reacted and vocally expressed his displeasure at his opponent. Unfortunately for Reynolds, the referee adjudged that his comments had been directed at him rather than the opposing player and sent him off for foul and abusive language. Edgeworth had the last chance of the match as the clock ticked into the 8th minute of added time, but his shot lacked accuracy and was high wide and not very handsome.

Overall, a disappointing afternoon, and one which manager Tony Joyce had correctly forecast would be a tough physical affair. On the balance of play though, with a little more composure in front of goal, it could have been a different story and the Ducks could have returned home with something to show for their efforts. However, they now need to lick their wounds and prepare for the long awaited, 4 times postponed, match against high flying Daventry on Wednesday evening.