AFTER a lengthy two month lay off because of wet weather, Ashbourne Aztecs Under-14s bounced back with an excellent team performance and were well worthy of their 4-2 victory over Melbourne.
On a sticky pitch, the central midfield pairing of Josh Dutton and Ross Keeling managed to get an early foothold, and gradually got Liam Scott and Matt Griffiths involved on the wings.
The front two of Charles Owens and Sam Phillips worked hard to create space in the last third and benefited from a number of balls over the top.
Griffiths and Dutton set up good goalscoring chances, but both Owens and Scott sliced their final shots wide.
Confidence was building as the back four of Jack Dean, Will MacDonald-Lowe, Dan Lee and Regan Major dealt comfortably with any Melbourne attacks.
Goalkeeper Billy Owens thus had little to do in the Ashbourne net, although he was called into a brave diving save when a ball across the penalty area was not cleared.
Dean went on a number of surging runs forward and combined well with Griffiths down the left flank.
The deadlock was broken when a swirling free-kick by Major struck the underside of the bar, and Owens was alert to the rebound, firing home a low shot inside the post.
Aztecs broke through the hosts’ back line again when Scott’s trickery was foiled by a strong last-ditch tackle.
Griffiths delivered a series of corners which caused more danger but Dutton just failed to connect with a volley and Major’s header was gathered by the Melbourne keeper.
Ben Wildgoose replaced Keeling in midfield but immediately found himself rampaging up the right wing and crossing to the far post, but Owens was left inches away from scoring.
However, it was not long before Ashbourne did extend their , when another cross from Griffiths was deflected in by a Melbourne defender.
Griffiths was also involved in the third goal after a delightful passing move involving Dean, Dutton and Wildgoose, ending with a chipped pass by Griffiths, which Owens controlled and swept past the keeper.
The only blemish in a commanding first half was a mix up between two defenders which saw Melbourne pull a surprise goal back just before the interval.
Aztecs were playing into a strong wind in the second period but Major and Lee dealt with it superbly.
Scott and MacDonald-Lowe also dealt well with the threat from the Melbourne left and Billy Owens’ kicking was excellent.
Lewis Pepper came on at left back and Dean moved into midfield, where he and Dutton were relishing their more forward roles as Wildgoose protected in front of the back line.
Scott and Owens both went clear again but neither could convert their opportunities.
Ashbourne finally made it four when Griffiths drew a foul on the right and Major’s free-kick beat everyone as it crept in at the far post.
Max Winbow came on for the last half hour and contributed some neat passes as he linked up with Pepper, Owens and Dutton on the left and saw a shot go narrowly wide.
Melbourne then had a chance to pull one back when Pepper conceded a penalty with a two-footed tackle, but the spot kick was skied over the bar.
Aztecs reasserted their control of the game, with some terrific tackling by MacDonald-Lowe, Dutton and Keeling and solid heading by Pepper, Major and Lee.
Scott again went close but could not get past the keeper.
A counter attack by Melbourne resulted in another Ashbourne clearance, which stuck in the mud and was finished with a crisp strike.
But time ran out for the home side and the Aztecs deservedly notched their first win of 2014.