Ardley beat Wantage to continue title charge

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Ryan Brooks bagged a hat-trick as Ardley United extended their lead at the top of the Hellenic Premier Division with a crucial 3-0 win over title rivals Wantage Town.

Kevin Brock’s side, who have lost just two games all season, are now five points clear at the top of the table having gone 10 matches unbeaten, although they have played more games than closest rivals Highmoor Ibis and Wantage.

The heavy pitch, which had passed an early inspection, made for a scrappy opening 10 minutes on Saturday, but Wantage did have the ball in the net only for the goal to be ruled out for a push on the home goalkeeper.

Immediately came the breakthrough as Ardley went up the other end and took the lead when a Stuart Bridges through ball found Brooks, who burst beyond the visiting defence before rounding the goalkeeper and sliding the ball into an empty net to put United ahead.

The rest of the first half was largely uneventful with the visitors enjoying more of the ball but failing to test a stern Ardley defence that has conceded just 25 goals all season.

Play continued in a similar vein in the early part of the second half and, in the 58th minute, Wantage were gifted a glorious opportunity to level when Kelvin McIntosh brought down Matt Pedder, but for the second week running Jack Harding saved a penalty to keep United ahead.

That proved to be the turning point in the match as Ardley swiftly took advantage to double their lead through Brooks as he beat the goalkeeper to the loose ball and slotted home before the points were wrapped up late on when Brooks completed his hat-trick following a ball over the top of the visiting defence from Steve Howkins.

Ardley go five points clear as a result, but Wantage could retake top-spot if they win all three of their games in hand.