Ardley United’s four-month unbeaten run came to an end last weekend as their lead at the top of the Hellenic Premier Division was cut to three points.
With rivals Wantage Town only drawing, Saturday’s match at Flackwell Heath represented a chance for Ardley to extend their lead at the top – and they made the perfect start when Troy Bryan was fouled on the edge of the area and Callum Convey stepped up to slot home the penalty and put the visitors 1-0 up – a lead they maintained until half-time.
Ardley remained in the ascendency for the opening stages of the second half, but the turning point came seven minutes after the restart when goalkeeper Jack Harding failed to deal with a corner and Flackwell’s Jamie West poked into an empty net.
Just five minutes later, West doubled his and Flackwell’s tally with a mazy run across the edge of the area before wrong-footing Harding by firing inside the near post.
Ardley pressed hard and pinned the home side back in their own half as they sought to preserve their unbeaten run, but victory for the hosts was assured seven minutes from the end when substitute Gavin James floated a cross that sailed over Harding and into the far corner.
That defeat made Tuesday’s home encounter with Binfield all the more important in the race for the title.
In a game of little goalmouth action, neither side were able to gain the upper hand in a goalless first period that saw Stuart Bridges firing wide in the closest either team came to a goal.
The second half was a different story as Ardley took full control, but it seemed the game was heading for a goalless draw until, just three minutes from time, a corner fell to Jon Gardner on the edge of the area and his volley went through a host of players and into the net to spark wild celebrations among the players after what could be a potentially huge goal in the title race.
Ardley face a tough game away at Highworth Town this weekend while Wantage, who are three points behind United with two games in hand, host Kidlington.