Ardley United beat Wootton Bassett Town 2-1 on Tuesday to keep themselves in touch with the pacesetters at the top of the Hellenic Premier Division.
Played in light rain throughout, Ardley struggled to make any real impact in the first half as Wootton Bassett seized control and deservedly took a 1-0 lead into half-time.
The opening goal came early in the game when a long diagonal ball set Nathan Gambling free on the left and his cross was met by Dan Bailey, who got to the ball just ahead of Ben Thomas to score.
The Ardley back four were looking unusually out-of-sorts as they struggled to contain the visitors front players with Dale Richards and Gambling just failing to hit the target.
When they did manage to get forward, the home side had a couple of chances with Ricky Johnson firing wide before hitting the crossbar, while Wootton were unlucky not to extend their lead when a corner kick evaded everyone and came back off the post.
Injuries forced Ardley manager Kevin Brock to make two changes at the break, with Diego Petriaggi and Kieran Scott coming on, and they both made an instant impact as United came out a transformed side in the second half.
Five minutes into the half, a goalmouth scramble from a corner saw the ball stopped on the line before being cleared, but when it was played back in, Chris Jackson was on hand to head powerfully into the net.
With both substitutes having an impact on either flank, Ardley created chance after chance but they struggled to find the finishing touch as Luke Ingram forced good saves from goalkeeper Luke Kuczynski while Callum Convey repeated Wootton’s first half trick of hitting the post direct from a corner.
Ingram battled well to set up Petriaggi who fired just wide, before having a shot himself from the right bye-line that ran agonisingly across the goal-line and just past the far post.
Eventually the home side’s perseverance paid off as, six minutes from time, Petriaggi dribbled the ball past two defenders before he was tripped in the box for a penalty. Convey stepped up and made no mistake to clinch a hard-earned three points that keeps United sixth in the table.
Earlier in the week, Ardley were left to rue numerous missed chances in a 2-1 defeat away at title-chasing Ascot United. Gavin Kidd scored United’s only goal of the game.
This weekend, Ardley begin their defence of the Oxfordshire Senior Cup, which they so memorably won in April, when they entertain Carterton on Saturday.