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Apr 09, 2016

Laurel Park Whirlwinds 2 Ashridge Park Royals U17 2

Another week, another crucial match.  This time, it was a visit to Laurel Park, our main competitor for the runner’s up spot. We had drawn with them in a lively encounter at St Crispin’s earlier in the season, and their abilities were well established illustrated by a run to the semi final of the Cup where they had defeated three First Division teams before finally succumbing to the League’s dominant outfit.Ashridge were slightly under-strength with 2 players missing injured, so the bench had 3 players on it, compared with the five on the home team’s bench.
Ashridge started well, looking confident on the attack, but after the first 15 minutes, the home team’s determination put them on top, with Dom by far the busier keeper.  The home team were dominant but good quality defending, and a willingness for the Ashridge players to put their bodies on the line ensured that the game was goal-less at the break.
The half time talk touched less on tactics and more on the question of whether the team had the determination to compete against physically strong opponents.
The home team were the stronger out of the traps again, and took only 3 minutes to take the lead when a soft shot, after an admittedly impressive build-up, squirmed under Peter’s body (Dom, incapacitated, had been withdrawn at half time). Bizarrely the goal seemed to take the wind out of Laurel’s sails, and Ashridge came back into the game. 
Charlie had already gone off injured in the first half, and then after the goal, Callum had to be withdrawn, leaving us without any subs.  Ted returned to the fray and started to run the game.On 55 minutes he beat 2 defenders, and his cross was very nearly bundled over the line by Sid, Ted’s corner on 59 minutes was millimetres over Ben C’s head at the far post, but then on 65 minutes, switching to the left, he found Alex in space in the box, who beat a player before calmly choosing a spot and shooting past the impressive Laurel keeper. Game on!
3 minutes later the home side were awarded a penalty, converted it and went 2-1 up.
60 seconds after that, Ashridge won a penalty, which Ben C placed into the bottom right corner, only to see it saved with the keeper at full stretch.
Ashridge continued to probe, and on 85 minutes the keeper had to be at full stretch to catch a high ball being attacked by Alex and Sid. 
Nevertheless there was no panic, and finally with 2 minutes left, Ted picked up the ball in the area and his wonderful cross/lob eluded the keeper to land in the corner of the Laurel goal, to snatch a hard fought point.
The home team created more chances but there is no questioning the Ashridge team’s honesty and determination to match their opponents, which resulted in a well deserved point. We now need 3 points from our old friends at Sandhurst to seal the runners up position.