NICK Thorne’s 85th minute strike gave Ardley United a precious 2-1 win against Highworth Town in the Hellenic Premier Division.
Ardley were the better team throughout but it looked like they would be forced to settle for a draw until Thorne’s late goal that gave Ardley the perfect start to 2013, taking them up to fourth in the table.
United were quick out of the blocks with Tory Bryan having an early header from a corner cleared off the line before Stuart Bridges fired narrowly over from a free kick.
The visitors had their moments with Steve Robertson finding the side-netting but Ardley continued to look the stronger team as another free-kick was wasted from the edge of the box following a foul on Steve Howkins
However, the opening goal wasn’t far away and it came from the penalty spot when Ardley’s leading goalscorer Howkins slotted home after Thorne went on a solo run and was clipped from behind.
The home side held onto their slender lead until half time but Highworth began the second period in determined mood and deservedly levelled the contest when an accurate pass found Aaron Maximen, who side-stepped the defender and fired past Ardley goalkeeper Joe White into the corner.
Both sides then went in search of a winning goal with some flowing football on display despite the heavy playing surface.
In an end-to-end finale, it was Ardley who stole victory with five minutes to go when a long clearing kick from White resulted in a chase between Thorne and visiting goalkeeper Gary Eggleton. With the latter going to ground, Thorne managed to toe-poke the ball under the ‘keeper and slot it into an empty net.
Desperate to hang on, Ardley ran down the clock without further alarm to claim victory and move up to fourth in the table – two points behind second-placed Slimbridge and 10 behind leaders Marlow with a game in hand.
This weekend, United travel to mid-table side Highmoor Ibis.