Ardley go top as title race heads for nail-biting finale

Ardley goalscorer Jon Gardner beats Thame's Ian Pykett to the ball. Picture: Steven Prouse
Ardley goalscorer Jon Gardner beats Thame's Ian Pykett to the ball. Picture: Steven Prouse

Ardley United have returned to the top of the Hellenic Premier Division following back-to-back wins over Easter.

A 5-1 victory at Abington Town on Saturday followed by a 2-0 home win over Thame United on Easter Monday sees Arldey reclaim top spot, but second-placed Wantage Town have a game in hand and lie just a point behind ahead of the final weekend of the season.

Wantage play their game in hand at third-placed Ascot United on Saturday, before the season comes to a close on Monday when Ardley to go Bracknell Town and Wantage visit Abington.

Away at bottom of the table Abington last Saturday, Ardley suffered a shock early setback when the lowly hosts went ahead through Leon Howard’s hooked shot that looped over goalkeeper Jack Harding.

Ardley’s misery deepened moments later as the league’s top goalscorer, Ryan Brooks, was forced off with a groin injury, but this was swiftly followed by an equaliser as Jon Gardner crossed to Stuart Bridges and his pass set up Joe Eyre to volley home.

Eight minutes later, Gardner again broke down the right and drove into the area before squaring for Ollie Stanbridge to rifle the ball into the net to put Ardley in front.

The visitors had further chances to score but Gardner’s free kick hit the crossbar and Troy Bryan was denied by a great save from Abingdon ‘keeper Jake Butler to keep the score at 2-1 at half-time.

Abingdon almost repeated their first half feat of scoring early when Howards laid the ball off for Dec Hartigan, but his well struck shot was wide.

Just a minute later, though, Gardner again broke down the right and played the ball to Stanbridge, whose cross gave Bryan the simplest of finishes to put Ardley into a 3-1 lead.

Further goals from Ben Thomas, who turned in Eyre’s cross, and Bryan with his second of the afternoon, ensured the points for the visitors and kept up the pressure on Wantage at the top.

They further turned up the heat on their title rivals on Easter Monday Jon Gardner and Troy Bryan scored a goal apiece to see off Thame United 2-0 and remain top.