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Feb 20, 2016

February 20: Reading Rangers 3 Ashridge Park Royals U17 1

So the moment of truth!  We travelled to table-toppers Reading Rangers, unbeaten all season, with the objective of winning all three points to match their points tally for the season, and throw the championship wide open.  Anything else, and realistically we would be looking at best at a runners up position in this, very successful, season.
With the toss won, we elected to shoot downhill, with the winds at our back.  Within 2 minutes, Alex’s firm header had been well saved by the keeper, and with Ashridge rampant down the 2 flanks, the visitors were looking strong, but the Rangers well-drilled rearguard was impenetrable.
Unfortunately in spite of Ashridge’s good territorial possession, the home team were set up to attack on the counter-attack, and burst forward on 15 minutes, taking advantage of Ashridge’s advanced positioning, and took the lead.  6 minutes later the advantage was doubled after another well worked attack down the left.
Ben’s swerving shot on 24 minutes came close to reducing the arrears, but if anything the home team could have increased their lead, with Pewter having to be alert to prevent a goal after a misjudged back-pass.  Then in the last minute half of the half, Reading Rangers were unlucky to kiss what was effectively an open goal.  2-0 at half-time.
The decision was made to change to a 5 man midfield at half time, which immediately changed the flow of the game, with Ashridge by far the stronger team, leaving Peter as a virtual spectator, with the excellent home keeper being kept very busy.   Ashridge attacked with verve and imagination, but occasionally fell into the trap of resorting to long throws, when perhaps a more considered approach may have been a better strategy to get past the home team’s huge and well organised defenders. The best opportunity, on 70 minutes fell to Dan, whose headed from Ben’s corner missed the goal by millimetres.
However on75 minutes, against the run of play a Rangers player found himself 30 yards away from goal and lobbed the keeper, some 12 yards off his line, to establish a 3 goal lead.
This was the cue to throw caution to the wind and play a 3-4-3 formation.,  This almost paid immediate dividends, when Callum picked his spot in the bottom corner perfectly, finally beating the keeper only for the centre half to somehow appear from nowhere stretching his whole body and clear the ball off the line.
Finally, on 82 minutes, Ted set Alex free to score a well deserved goal, bringing the score to 3-1.  Within 30 seconds Ashridge were in the home team’s box, when Ted’s shot was parried by the keeper only for both Alex and then Ted again incredibly unlucky not to convert the 2 rebounds.
Sadly it was not to be, but Ashridge paid their part in a very enjoyable match.  Credit must go to the self-managed opponents, who played the game to a high standard in an excellent spirit and will be worthy champions at the season’s end. Also a quick word of praise to Winston, the referee, who ran the game superbly.
So for Ashridge, a disappointing result, but with 5 games remaining we must now target the runner’s up position