Ardley United – 1
Oxford United – 3
Ardley hosted Oxford United on Tuesday evening in the quarter-final of the Oxfordshire Senior Cup, and in front of a very healthy crowd they more than matched their high-level opponents who were represented by a very good Under 18’s side. Always a test against a professional side no matter what side they send out, to see so many talented youngsters representing Oxford was a boost to the crowd of over three hundred that braved the swirling mist and rain to cheer on both sides.
The first half saw honours even, neither side really looked in danger of opening the scoring and it took Oxford over twenty minutes to muster their first shot at goal. Both sides really did cancel each other out, crosses were dealt with and cleared away, and for thirty minutes or so this could have been a game against two sides from the same league.
As the half ended, Oxford stepped up a level and had an effort cleared off the line and straight down the other end Ardley striker Greg Hackett unleashed a rocket from distance that Oxford keeper Niall Clayton brilliantly tipped over his crossbar. Nil-nil at half-time was a fair reflection on the game.
The Oxford keeper was busiest at the start of the second period, Conor Harris forcing him into a save early on before Hackett got away on goal but a fantastic recovering tackle from Matt Berry-Hargreaves denied the shot. The home side missed their golden chance on the hour mark, and had they scored then maybe a different ending may have played out to this cup tie.
Billy Gillett seized on a mistake to get away on goal, rounded the Oxford keeper but with the open goal in front him he lost all balance and pulled his shot wide. The Oxford side seemed to realise from there that they had been massively let off the hook and upped their intent.
O’s substitute Ryan Crooks saw Ardley keeper Tom Molloy pull off two brilliant saves to keep the scoreline intent, but then the young academy side delivered two knock out punches inside six minutes of each other. On seventy-two minutes Crooks latched on to a through ball from Albie Hopkins to finally open the scoring, and moments later doubled his, and his sides tally with a second from close range.
All of a sudden, the Ardley side looked very tired and flagging in all departments. All their hard work undone and now facing a bleak remaining twelve minutes. That was until five minutes before the end when Hackett gave them a brief lifeline by smashing home past Clayton and it was game on again. Ardley had their energy back and were appealing for every decision, one of which saw manager Craig Adey sent to the stands!
As much as they huffed and puffed the Oxford youngsters repelled everything, and deep into added time killed the game off when Owen James cut in from their right and smashed a thunderbolt over Molloy which crashed in off the underside of the crossbar. F/T: 1-3
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