ASHBOURNE Aztecs Under-9s edged to a narrow victory over top-of-the-table Chesapeake Braves in their first game since the second week of January.
They were looking to improve on their results in the last third of the season, but knew they were going to be in for a tough game, having lost 2-0 to the same opponents earlier in the season.
A tactical formation change before kick-off seemed to work wonders and the lads settled in straightaway against a strong physical team from Derby.
The sturdy backline of goalkeeper Luke Griffiths, and defenders Sam Keeling and Max Williams soaked up the early pressure from Chesapeake, releasing Kian Walwyn and Dylan Hinde into an attacking midfield role in the early exchanges of the match.
Alfie Allcock, playing just off frontman Lukas Sowter, battled hard against a resolute Chesapeake defence, but the breakthrough came after eight minutes when Walwyn broke free and hit a low shot which the Chesapeake goalkeeper could only parry into the path of Sowter.
And he coolly finished into the back of the net to give the Aztecs a 1-0 lead.
Charlie Gill and George Rushton were introduced midway through the first half into the midfield and battled excellently.
Chesapeake broke free just before the interval and had a goal disallowed for an infringement on the edge of the area.
So Aztecs went in 1-0 up at half time and after a quick pep talk from the managers they took to the field of play knowing a shock result could be on the cards.
The second half was frantic in a typical end-to-end match that saw chances for both sides.
Luke Griffiths made some excellent saves in goal and stout defending at times kept the Aztecs in front.
George Rushton had a major impression on the game and produced arguably his best performance of the season playing on the left of midfield.
A burst through just after the mid-point of the second half with the ball resulted in a powerful shot just rising above the bar.
Williams, Keeling and Hinde gave their all in the final few minutes and the referee blew his whistle to secure a great win for the Aztecs.
Man of the match was awarded to George Rushton for what was an outstanding display.