In recent years Ardley Utd have been in and around the promotion chasing pack of the Hellenic Premier League but have never quite made it. A few years back they lead the league for the majority of the season only to fade at the run-in and get pipped to the title by Wantage Town.
This season they have again started well and, after 6 games, remain unbeaten.
With a population of less than 700, Ardley are really punching above their weight. The fact that Tuesday was the day of the Ukraine v England match added to the expectation that the crowd would be limited to say the least. I was not disappointed, the offical attendance was 26.
The ground itself is situated on the edge of the village towards the M40 junction. There is a reasonable amount of parking available and finding a spot, even though I was quite late, was no problem at all. The single turnstile is at the car park end of the ground. Hard standing leads past a small stand behind the Oxford Road end and to the combined clubhouse, changing rooms and tea bar. At this point I will add that Ardley are now top of my Cup of Tea league, a good strong cup of tea at a proper price.
On the motorway side of the ground there is nother stand which boasts a seating area, a standing area and also houses the PA. The other 2 sides of the ground are open, hard-standing.
The pitch slopes a little from the Oxford Road end towards the village end but it did appear to be in very good condition.
Ardley, managed by former Oxford, Newcastle and QPR player Kevin Brock and featuring son Harry at left-back, started very brightly. The opening goal came just 2 minutes into the match when a swift break saw a right-wing cross headed in by leading scorer Ryan Brooks. However, 10 minutes later, the lively front 2 of Holyport created an opening and a big deflection saw the ball roll into the Ardley net for 1-1.
From that point onward, Ardley took control of the game. Two more first half goals followed and the home side went into the break 3-1 up. The second half followed the same pattern. Ardley played the better football but the 2 lads up front for Holyport did enough to keep the defence on it's toes. There was, however, only one outcome. Two more Ardley goals made it 5-1 just after the hour mark and the game was over as a contest. Ardley could have had a couple more, but 5-1 was a fair scoreline on the balance of play.
So, Ardley make it 7 unbeaten and look likely to be in the shake-up at the top of the Premier again this season.
On a final note, hats off to referee E. Turner. He never once stopped smiling or laughing even when faced with angry players and officials. He refereed the game with an exuberance which put me in mind of Jorge José Emiliano dos Santos (if you don't know who he was, Google him and watch the video). Of course, Mr Turner did not do the dancing or flouncing and I make the comparison in a complementary way. He did, however, display a great love of refereeing and football. Well played Mr Turner, you made a difficult job look very easy.
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