ASHBOURNE Aztecs Under-15s claimed three crucial points as their battle against relegation continued.
This was a must-win game for Aztecs and, after a big win in their previous match, their confidence was high and this translated into some slick passing moves and good ball retention in the opening quarter.
The only goal of the game came after the interval, when Joe Barke made the most of a ricochet off the Hilton keeper to put the ball into the net.
Both full-backs, Ben Wildgoose and Lewis Pepper, were asking for the ball from keeper Billy Owens and they were able to build some promising attacks.
Max Winbow had a lot of early possession on the left wing and was combining well with Charles Owens and Barke.
Long passes by Regan Major and Josh Dutton were also causing problems for the visitors, allowing Matt Griffiths and Liam Scott to show their pace.
However, Ashbourne did not capitalise in the final third and were frustrated not to have a clear shot at goal during the first half.
The nearest they came was when Owens burst through and controlled the ball well but lobbed his shot high and wide.
They then had a scare just before the interval when the referee waved away a penalty claim by Hilton.
The second half saw an injection of desire by the whole team.
Sam Phillips chased down every ball on the left and Owens was pushed forward to pressurise the centre-backs.
Ross Keeling played wide on the right where he enjoyed space and time to pass and dribble, with good support from Wildgoose, Dutton and Scott.
He also found himself as the last striker in a central position but was called offside.
Major launched some great free kicks and then headed wide from a Scott corner.
Hilton responded with some lovely passing but could not penetrate the Ashbourne defence, where Dan Lee was excellent once again.
What turned out to be the winning goal came from a through ball which Barke chased down.
In a 50-50 with the Hilton keeper, the ball ricocheted off his chest and ended up in the back of the net.
Dutton and Scott were now controlling central midfield and a neat passage of play on the left involving Pepper, Griffiths, Barke and Scott ended with a disappointing sliced shot by Dutton.
The hosts increased their attacking options by pushing Griffiths, Winbow and Owens forward.
Winbow fired narrowly wide and Owens had two shots on target which were fielded by the keeper.
At the other end, Harriers had two corners which were headed clear and a dangerous run from the left winger, who got away from Keeling.
As Dutton came off injured, Major assumed the central midfield role and showed good determination in winning tackles and chasing back.
In the last quarter, Aztecs should have put the game to bed.
The pace of Scott, Owens and Griffiths meant they got behind the Hilton defence three or four times. Scott's curled shot was well saved and then Griffiths side-footer slid past the far post. With ten minutes to go, Harriers should have scored as they carved out their only clear cut chance in the penalty area, but Owens was on hand to make a brilliant diving save and Aztecs secured three vital points.
AZTECS' Under-11 side cruised to a comfortable victory at Field Lane, with all 13 Juniors turning out.
With four subs on the bench for this nine-a-side game, a lot of swapping and changing had to take place and a number of players had to play in unfamiliar positions.
But they adapted admirably to their new roles.
The Juniors were happy to welcome back Josh Lee whose strength they missed in the weekend's game against Mickleover.
The first goal of the game came from Luke Zona, followed by a second from Tyler Burton.
Ben Holloway added a third prior to half-time – his first goal of the season and a very special moment for him and the team.
Jack Beresford made some good runs and again was unlucky with his final touch, Dominic Blount's height in the box was an added bonus for the side when corners were coming in but it was James Donlan who headed a fine corner from Wood, just over the cross bar.
Jack Green was using his skill on the ball to create through balls for his team mates and started a good passage of play to enable Donlan to score not once but twice during the second half.
Ben Johnson didn't have a lot to do in this game, but stayed alert and ready for action throughout.
The player of the match in this evening's game was Jack Beresford who battled hard and never gave up.