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Match Report

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The familiar name of ‘Hercules’ was on the scoresheet for the first time since 2001 as Aylesbury United secured their Southern League safety with two games to spare, in dramatic fashion at former landlords Leighton Town.

Not, of course, all-time leading goalscorer Cliff, but his nephew Ellis – who headed home Jake Bewley’s free kick on 78 minutes to kick-start what was an unlikely looking recovery by the lethargic Ducks.

Two minutes later and the same duo were heavily involved again at a corner before Bewley’s low return ball was fired home by Stacey Field to complete the comeback. Job done.

Hercules was only included for his debut due to Greg Williams’s injury that saw him at the ground on crutches, with Aylesbury otherwise unchanged as they sought to continue their ‘awesome April’ of three wins and a draw going into the game.

Leighton’s form had also improved of late with the Reds having overtaken Hanwell Town in the league courtesy of two wins in their most recent four games, so also had reason to be confident.

Aylesbury made a promising start and were close to scoring with just three minutes on the clock. Field fed Sonny French with a fine through ball and he took it around the keeper only for a stunning recovery block on the goal line from makeshift centre half James Hatch to keep it out.

Two minutes later and some hesitancy in the home defence could have been punished by Reece Cameron, but he was unable to hit the target with a miscued shot.

Leighton then had their first chance of the night when Alkali Darboe found strike partner Ben Gallant, the ex-Duck’s shot from the edge of the area comfortably fielded by Zaki Oualah.

Always a tricky customer, some more enterprising play from Gallant then teed up the well placed Aaron McKee for a shot, but he could only produce a wayward effort that drifted well wide.

The decent start United had made to proceedings was now a distant memory as the hosts upped the ante, Darboe dragging a shot to the right of goal from the edge of the area following some neat build up.

Then it was Leighton’s turn to see an effort cleared off the line, as another Aylesbury old boy Lewis McBride set off on a mesmerising run from the left to take him in on goal where his poked effort was scraped away by Bewley at the last second.

Darboe tried his luck with a 45-yard free kick as the half drew to a close, his powerfully struck shot blocked on its way to goal, but Gallant went closer still moments later when his somewhat closer curling set play was turned wide by the fingertips of Oualah to ensure the first half ended goalless.

Half-time: Leighton 0-0 Aylesbury

The second half continued in much the same way, with a flat Aylesbury huffing and puffing but making little headway.

The excellent Darboe was denied on 56 minutes when he beat Oualah to a defence splitting through ball, screwing a goalbound shot back towards the target where a combination of Wood and Bewley somehow managed to clear the danger.

Two dangerous set pieces were well defended by Aylesbury, but with the pressure growing it was no surprise when Leighton did finally make the breakthrough.

Cameron’s pocket was picked on the touchline as he tried to bring the ball down, the ball delivered low and hard across goal where substitute Kerran Birch arrived at the far post to hammer it into the net, possibly with his first touch. 1-0 Leighton

Still Town kept coming, and as Gallant raced onto a long ball he twisted and turned his way into the box but found his final shot saved, whilst a flowing three man move involving Gallant, McKee and McBride ended with the latter also denied by Oualah.

Despite barely having a kick in the second half, and without a shot to speak of, to their great credit, Aylesbury dug deep and showed tremendous spirit to conjure up an equaliser.

One of numerous silly fouls given away by the home side was punished as Bewley swung the ball in from the right flank, and Hercules rose majestically to power home the kind of header his uncle would have been proud of. 1-1

What had seemed an unlikely comeback was then completed two minutes later, as Aylesbury netted again. The Bewley/Hercules link up bore fruit again as the latter met Bewley’s corner kick only to see his attempt blocked, and when the ball was worked back out to Bewley he crossed low for a joyous Stacey Field to turn it home. 2-1 Aylesbury

Leighton tried hard to mount some late pressure, but United did a fine job of closing out the remainder of the game. Indeed, it was the Ducks who went closest to adding to the scoring when Lea Coulter let fly from 30-yards with an effort that whistled just past the post.

With full time not long in following, the decent travelling contingent were soon able to celebrate a hard-fought win that had looked like it wasn’t coming for the Ducks. Relegation staved off, the team can now look forward to what should be an enjoyable last two pressure-free games to end the campaign.