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Match Report

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Match report by Leon O'Sullivan

Aylesbury began their 2020/21 league campaign with, on paper, maybe the toughest game of the season, but the Ducks showed the same resilience and organisation that defined the team in the sadly truncated 2019/20 to give the Steelmen of Corby another rough start.

Manager Ben Williams was forced into one decision, with Jack Hopwood's suspension meaning a full debut for former Aylesbury Vale Dynamos goalkeeper James Weatherill between the sticks. There were three other changes to the starting lineup from last Saturday's 3-0 cup win over Long Crendon, as Harry Jones replaced Anthony Ball at right back, Dave O'Connor came in for Jordan Jenkins at centre half, and Ty Deacon taking Lee Stobbs' place in the front three.

Both sides got off to a slow start in the September sun, with a weak Ollie Hogg shot straight at Corby keeper Craig Hill the only goalmouth action until the 20th minute, when Aylesbury were the first side to really threaten to open the scoring. Max Hercules' cross from the left wing was brilliantly headed back from the byline by Ty Deacon into the path of Juwon Akintunde, whose half-volley was well parried by Hill.

A late challenge on Hill by Akintunde saw the Ducks striker yellow carded in the 23rd minute, before the Steelmen began to pick up the pace a little approaching the half hour mark. Their first shot of the game came on 26 minutes, with a tame effort from Jordon Crawford proving no problem for Weatherill, before Stephen Diggin's shot on the turn was blocked by O'Connor two minutes later. Probably the hosts' best attempt of the first half came on 30 minutes as Crawford, as per usual one of the foremost Corby threats, drifted a curling effort wide of the far post.

With 32 minutes gone, Hercules cut in and hit a right-footed effort well over (not missing the Steelmen's refreshment bar by much), before a low free kick from Ollie Hogg bounced harmlessly into the arms of Hill.

The increasing Ducks pressure paid off in full on 39 minutes. The ever-threatening Akintunde's shot was blocked, the ball looped towards the edge of the box, and Ollie Hogg absolutely slammed an unstoppable volley into the top right corner for a sensational opening goal. 1-0 Aylesbury

Corby's only real sign of a response before half time came in the guise of a free kick in a dangerous position, but left back Sam Warburton couldn't lift his attempt over the Aylesbury wall.

Half-time: Corby 0-1 Aylesbury

The sparse Ducks following in the sellout 400 crowd at Steel Park might have feared a barrage from last season's title challengers, but much to the frustration of the home fans, Corby were barely able to force Weatherill into action despite a glut of corner kicks and the odd dangerous cross.

In fact, for much of the second period it was the men in green who were the bigger goalscoring threat, both through counter attacks and via the odd sloppy misplay in their own half from Corby (often the result of good pressing from the hardworking Ducks). Just two minutes following the restart, the home side's Jordan Fowler may have been fortunate to have only been booked after wrestling Max Hercules to the ground as he raced towards the goal. With the resulting free kick, Sonny French floated the ball to Mark Riddick who directed his header just wide and into the side netting.

The tricky Crawford dragged a shot wide for Corby in the 53rd minute, but six minutes later Jake Bewley swiped the ball from his opponent on the halfway line, and quickly moved it across the front line by way of French to Akintunde, who saw his strike comfortably stopped by Hill. The same players combined again on 63 minutes, as a short corner was played out to Bewley whose outswinging cross was headed over the bar by Akintunde.

The Ducks had a slight scare in the 73rd minute as Diggin put the ball in the net for the Steelmen, but the assistant referee's flag had gone up for offside a couple of seconds beforehand. Two minutes later, the Ducks were almost gifted a second goal as the Corby defence handed the ball on a plate to Ty Deacon, but with only the goalkeeper to beat his shot smashed agonisingly off the near post.

Corby substitute Matt North's speculative effort from range forced Weatherill into a comfortable save in the 82nd minute, but a Corby corner shortly afterwards only resulted in another opportunity for the Ducks! A swift counter attack saw Aylesbury with a sudden numbers advantage on the Corby defence, and the ball was smartly shifted across to Lee Stobbs (on for Akintunde), whose hard shot was parried by Hill, and a follow-up low cross from the right from Hercules flashed perilously across the face of goal, but alas nobody was there to meet it.

Corby substitute Elliot Sandy was booked for a late, frustrated challenge on Weatherill in the 90th minute, and in the three minutes of stoppage time it was still only the Ducks threatening to add to the scoreline. Some more Hercules magic saw him cut in from the left and curl his shot just over, before, in the dying seconds, Corby's Warburton barely avoided a calamitous own goal as he deflected a looping ball just inches past the post with his goalkeeper totally stranded.

With that, the referee blew the final whistle to confirm a deserved opening day win for the Ducks, proof (in case any were needed) that last season's successes were no fluke, and a bitterly disappointing start for the Steelmen following a heartbreaking FA Cup exit via last-minute equaliser then penalty shootout the week before. Aylesbury, meanwhile, will be full of confidence going straight back into cup action taking on Portsmouth-based visitors Moneyfields at Chesham this coming Tuesday night.