ASHBOURNE Aztecs Diamonds under-10s ended up on the losing side of a fast-paced and exciting match against Belper which was win at all costs for each team from the outset.
Many of the early exchanges were in the Belper box, with Harry Vinall and Thomas Harris causing havoc, and Conor Phillips’ corners generating chances.
A hard run from Theo Rodgers, followed by a Harris pass to Vinall, culminated in the Diamonds’ first gimpse of a goal, but the shot went just wide of Belper’s net.
The opposition had a very strong defensive line and they held well in the first five minutes of pressure, and after an even spell, began to assert themselves.
A cracking shot deflected off the crossbar, leaving the Diamonds breathing a sigh of relief.
Good strong midfield and defence work from Eric Prince, Phillips and Thomas Barke, backed up by the constant tenacity of Regan Ford, kept Belper at bay.
This was aided by some brave keeping from the excellent Jack Banks, helping to hold off the onslaught with a fantastic full-length dive to tip a shot around the post.
The half ended with Diamonds back on top again, but three great efforts on goal from Ford, Harris and Vinall – the latter following the move of the match with great interplay between midfield and the front three – all failed to impact upon the score.
Diamonds and Belper doubled the already fast pace in the second half, leaving little time for respite.
Bishop, who has in the last few matches gained considerable confidence, and Rodgers, showed impressive footwork in Belper’s area, opening the line of fire for Vinall and Harris to get close range efforts on target.
However, these, and long range piledrivers from Phillips and Prince, all failed to nail the ball into the net as the Belper keeper showed he was equal to Banks’ heroics.
Three times moves involving Vinall and Phillips freed up Bishop and Rodgers but the keeper either bravely came out to intercept or the finish went wide.
With two minutes to go Diamonds were chucking everything at Belper as draws are not what this team settles for.
However, a bizarre set of circumstances ended up in an unlikely breakthrough as a Belper throw near their corner flag was brilliantly intercepted by Vinall, who was bearing down on goal when the referee decided that it was a foul throw. Belper slung it in quick before the Diamonds forward line, who were now all in the box supporting Vinall’s run, were out of position.
A Belper defender swung a foot hopefully at the ball to launch it somewhere safe, and a lapse in the Diamonds defence saw a mis-kick and a fast, clean run by Belper’s decent left winger put him in on goal.
His shot was going wide but did not go all the way out of play, leaving the Belper striker with a tap-in.
Ashbourne were stung into attack and a substitution put four up front, leaving only Phillips to guard the middle and Prince to defend.
The gamble almost came off as, after a sustained period of pressure, a sharp pass from the centre by Vinall to Harris gave the latter a shot, but the Belper keeper somehow saved.
The custodian then launched the ball down the centre and suddenly it was three-on-one, and although Banks closed down the first shot to prevent a goal, the ball rebounded to a Belper player who took advantage to claim the second and decisive goal of the encounter.