Ardley United marked their first ever appearance in the Oxon Senior Cup final with a comprehensive 4-0 victory over Kidlington in Thursday’s showpiece at the Kassam Stadium.
There has never been much to choose between the two UHLSport Hellenic League sides in recent premier division encounters but Ardley were a league apart in Thursday’s final.
Early first half goals from Jon Gardner and Callum Convey set Kevin Brock’s boys on their way and a couple of second half strikes from substitute Troy Bryan and Stevie Howkins made it a night to remember for Ardley as they overcame the disappointment of missing out on the league title only three days earlier.
Ardley suffered an early blow when the returning Ryan Brooks lasted barely five minutes before the groin injury which ruled him out the title run-in saw the top scorer replaced by Bryan.
Both sides struggled in the wet conditions although Bryan missed a chance when he failed to connect with a cross from Howkins.
But it was Bryan who played his part in Ardley breaking the deadlock in the 20th minute when he chased Tommy Kinch’s long pass, got to the byeline and pulled the ball back for the unmarked Gardner to find the bottom corner from 15 yards.
Ardley doubled their advantage five minutes later when Gardner raced down the right flank and when the ball eventually found Convey on the edge of the box he fired into the other corner of Matt Hyslop’s net.
Brock was forced into another early change when Kinch, who picked up an injury at Bracknell Town on Monday, had to be replaced by Harry Brock. But Ardley continued to make good use of the flanks and Bryan went close when he headed wide at the far post from Gardner’s cross.
After their initial bright start, Kidlington were on the back foot for much of the first half as they worked hard to stay in the game but they failed to seriously test keeper Jack Harding. At the other end Hyslop had to be alert to race off his line and deny Gardner after Howkins played him into the box.
But it took Ardley just four minutes to increase their lead after the restart. Bridges was fouled on the edge of the box but the ball ran to Gardner who crossed low into the six yard box where Bryan managed to poke the ball home after Hyslop and Daniel Mason got in a tangle.
Bryan almost grabbed a second goal moments later when he cut into the box but fired over as he and Gardner continued to pose problems up front for an overworked Kidlington defence. Howkins was next to try his luck from distance and then tested Hyslop with a low drive as Ardley looked for more goals.
Harding was finally forced into a save when skipper Lewis Brownhill shot straight at the Ardley keeper but it was too little too late on the night.
Brock’s side confirmed their superiority by adding a fourth goal in the 73rd minute when Gardner’s low cross was turned in at the far post by Howkins to the put the gloss on an impressive display. Only a finger tip save from Hyslop denied Gardner moments later after he again broke into the box.
Lewis Coyle had Kidlington’s best chance late on when he burst into the box but Harding was quickly off his line to make a good save. At the other end Gardner found himself with just Hyslop to beat but his tame chip was comfortably saved by the keeper.