Ardley into second cup final but fall agonisingly short of title

Jon Gardner and Highworth's Steve Bunting. Picture: Steven Prouse
Jon Gardner and Highworth's Steve Bunting. Picture: Steven Prouse

Ardley United once again missed out on the Hellenic Premier Division title despite a final day 2-1 victory at Bracknell Town on Monday.

After Wantage Town beat Ascot United on Saturday, Ardley knew their title hopes had all but gone with Wantage facing bottom of the table Abington on Monday, and they duly won to clinch the title by two points from Kevin Brock’s side.

Against Bracknell, Ardley were made to work hard for the points by the in-form hosts, who were unbeaten in 10 matches, and it was the home side who took an early lead when Ollie Stanbridge fouled a Bracknell player for a penalty that was converted by Shane Cooper-Clark.

However, United levelled on 18 minutes through Stuart Bridges following good build-up play from Stanbridge and Troy Bryan – and that’s how it remained until the break despite chances at both ends in an entertaining first half.

Ardley upped their game in the second period before the winning goal came 12 minutes from time when Stanbridge fired home from Steve Howkins’ knock down for Ardley’s 10 successive victory.

Brock said afterwards: “We knew before Monday’s game that the title was probably out of our reach after Saturday, so I was delighted with the way the players performed. It was important to do what we had to do and make sure Wantage had to win the league rather than us losing it.”

On Saturday, Brock’s side reached their second cup final of the season thanks to a 2-1 win over Highworth Town in the semi-finals of the Bluefin Sports Challenge.

Neither team created many chances in a scrappy first half, but two goals in as many minutes at the start of the second period swung the game Ardley’s way as, first, Callum Convey’s speculative lob found it’s way over the head of keeper Kurtis Sharkey before Jon Gardner broke into the area and beat Kurtis Sharkey in the Highworth goal.

Highworth reduced the arrears five minutes from time through Terry Bohane’s penalty, but Ardley held on to set up a final clash with Ascot United at Abingdon United FC on Bank Holiday Monday, May 5.