Ashbourne Aztecs under-14s were unable to make ground on the teams in the top half of the table as missed chances and bad luck robbed them of at least a point against ADASC.
Ashbourne dominated the first half, with some controlled football and great commitment everywhere.
Matt Griffiths provided the threat on the left wing, supported by Charles Owens and Jack Dean.
He played a ball to Sam Birks, who went on a trademark dribble past several defenders before his shot struck the near post.
Birks then gathered a throw-inn on his chest and cut in from the left again, but this time his rising shot went narrowly over the bar.
ADASC remained dangerous on the counter attack, but the back four of Will MacDonald-Lowe, Regan Major, Dan Lee and Jack Dean were alert and strong in their tackling.
They were also confident enough to pass the ball out of defence to Josh Dutton, Sam Birks and Dougie Anthony, who were bossing the midfield.
Birks then won a free kick on the left which Major fired in but missed the target by a whisker, so it was disappointing when they lost two goals in 10 minutes.
First, Aztecs did not deal with a throw-in near their right corner flag and when the ball was floated across the area, the hosts had a man over and he slotted home.
Ashbourne then got caught on the break and conceded a free kick on the edge of the penalty area which was converted with style.
The Aztecs showed their character as they fought back with Dutton, Major and Lee all imperious in the tackle and Joe Barke getting more involved on the right.
Their determination brought reward when Dutton latched on to a loose ball on the edge of the area and cracked in a belter off the crossbar.
This was quickly followed by a chance to equalise when Anthony won a great tackle and Liam Scott’s pace took him past the last defender, but he was unlucky to see his shot bounce back off the post.
Scott’s header was cleared off the line and Dutton’s shot from the rebound was blocked.
The second half was more open up and end-to-end.
Dutton’s back heel was blasted over by Birks and at the other end, and a goalmouth scramble saw Billy Owens make two brave saves, followed by a series of tremendous tackles and blocks by MacDonald-Lowe, Challinor and Major.
The game was finally put to bed when Scott was dispossessed in midfield and the resulting long shot looped over Owens’ head to make the final score 3-1.