It was plain to see, from the full car park and the cars parked all down the road adjacent to the ground, that there was going to be a bumper crowd at The Playing Fields. This was particularly pleasing from my point of view because a big crowd means more programmes sold and more programmes sold mean more people see the Edie's Butterfly Appeal banner in the programme. I must thank everyone at Ardley United for continuing to print the banner in the programme this season. I originally placed the banner with the previous management and, since the chairman and board has changed, I wasn't sure that the banner would continue. However, it has and, on behalf of everyone connected with the appeal, thank you.
The Oxfordshire Senior Cup has been running since 1885, when it was first won by Culham College. Oxford City hold the record for most wins, at 32 but in recent years it has been United who have dominated. As Headington United and Oxford United they have won the trophy 13 times with six of these coming in the last 12 years. Ardley have won the competition just once, in 2014 with a 4-0 win over Kidlington.
When the teams came out they, and the ranks of Ardley United juniors, gathered around the centre circle to observe a a minute silence for former Oxford United stalwart Cyril Beavon who sadly passed away shortly before Christmas.
Ardley, kicking down the slope, started off much brighter than Oxford. Playing some really neat football, they carved open a few half chances early on but couldn't quite create the opening goal. Gradually, Oxford began to get a foothold on the game but it still took them the best part of 20 minutes to have their first real effort on goal.
The remainder of the half was a tight but even affair but, as it wore on, Oxford began to engineer one or two better chances and having an effort scrambled off the line with around five minutes to go until the break.
However, immediately after this scare for Ardley, striker Greg Hackett latched onto a through ball, got half a yard on his marker, and unleashed an effort from outside the box that Oxford keeper Niall Clayton did well to tip over the bar
HT Ardley United 0 Oxford United 0. Very close first-half. All square is a fair reflection on the game.
The home side were, again, quicker out of the blocks at the start of the second half, exerting a fair amount of pressure on the the Oxford back-line. Clayton was again forced into action, saving well from Harris before Hackett once more got clear but dallied a little allowing Berry-Hargreaves just enough time to get back and make a very good saving tackle.
On the hour mark Ardley really should have gone in front. Billy Gillett seized upon a mistake, burst clear and round the goalkeeper. However, he was off balance as he went to strike the ball and screwed his effort wide of the mark. It was a let off for Oxford which they duly recognised and began to step it up a notch, calling Ardley goalkeeper Tom Molloy into action a few times.
Molloy proved the saviour for Ardley on 68 minutes when he made a very good save to prevent Oxford going in front. It was, however, a temporary reprieve as, four minutes later, substitute Ryan Crooks finally got the better of the keeper, latching onto through ball and slotting the ball past the topper into the net. 0-1
Six minutes later and Crooks had his second when he fired home from close range. 0-2. An inspired substitution seemed to have first turned the game and then sealed the victory.
That was until, with five minutes on the clock, Hackett made up for his previous miss by smashing the ball past Clayton to give Ardley some hope. 1-2. Maybe we were going to get a rousing finale to the game?
Certainly Ardley boss Craig Adey, was getting animated. A little too much for the referee who, after apparently being treated to some choice language, ordered the manager away from the bench.
into injury time and Ardley were pushing for an equaliser. Another Hackett effort, from the edge of the box, was gratefully smothered by Clayton before, five minutes into added time, Oxford closed the game out in some style. Ryan James cut in from the right hand side and, from a tight angle, unleashed a thunderbolt past Molloy and in off the underside of the bar. 1-3
FT Ardley United 1 Oxford United 3. A good effort from the home side who, at times, were on top. However, the young Oxford side just had a little too much for them in the end.
Ardley United: Molloy, Boyd, Gabbidon, McKirnan, Leggett, West, J Moore, Mundy, Gillett, Hackett, Harris. Subs: Headford, Lewis, Feaver, Waite and Palfreeman
Oxford United: Clayton, Carr, Bryan, Baker, Berry-Hargreaves, Heap, Hopkins, Cowan, Noel-Williams, Lofthouse, James. Subs: Chillcott, Harris, McCreadie, Crooks, Stevens
Ground Number: Not a new ground
Programme: Included in entrance fee