NORTHWOOD FC   Saturday 1st September 2012   AYLESBURY FC

Evo-Stik Southern League Central Division

  Northwood 3  Aylesbury 2   

Christian 1, 64
Ajayi 9

O'Sullivan 38
Faulkner 53

Team line-up  

  Team line-up
1 James Reading     1 Richard Roberts
2 Scott Raper     2 Lee Grace
3 Ryan Phillips     3 Luke Abraham
4 Brad Hewitt     4 Dan Jones
5 Reece Yorke     5 Ben Stevens
6 John Christian     6 Alex Collard (68m)
7 Jack Hutchinson (61m)     7 Jack Ross (53m)
8 Craig White     8 Davis Haule
9 Spencer Bellotti (19m)     9 James Faulkner
10 Adamson Ajayi     10 Wayne O'Sullivan
11 Romaine Walker (46m)     11 Sonny French (79m)
Substitutes     Substitutes
12 Danny McDonnell     12 Craig Faulconbridge (68m)
14 James Fraser (61m)     14 Ollie Lynch
15 Dean Worman     15 Danilson Vincente (79m)
16 Oliver Hawkins (19m)     16 Nuah Shiblu (53m)
17 Kyle Matthews (46m)     17 Aaron Turner
      Referee: M Scholes; Assistants: D Hanna & N MacKenzie      
  REPORT by Matt Ford      PHOTOS by James Brown  

After two wins in a week and having scored eleven goals in the process, confidence was surely high for this league game against an Aylesbury side whom Northwood have failed to beat in four previous meetings. Gary Meakin made one change from the side that demolished AFC Hayes 6-0 on Monday, with Danny McDonnell being replaced by Ryan Phillips at left-back – his first league appearance in the red of Northwood. And that confidence was demonstrated immediately from the kick-off. Spencer Bellotti found winger Adamson Ajayi who then subsequently fed Jack Hutchinson, and the youngster then placed a silky ball across the box for John Christian. The midfielder had made a storming surge into the area and he side footed the Woods into a first minute lead after approximately twenty seconds!

That intensity wasn’t about to disappear, either, when moments later Hutchinson’s vision picked out Bellotti who was playing off the shoulder of the last defender and he got there ahead of visiting goalkeeper Richard Roberts but unfortunately his effort at goal was drifting away from the target. It wouldn’t have been heading in anyway yet Aylesbury full back and one of Bellotti’s ex Oxhey Jets teammates in Lee Grace made sure of it by clearing the ball out of harm’s way and into touch.
Craig Faulconbridge’s outfit were struggling to get into the game and the high tempo that the Woods had adopted from the off appeared to be paying dividends. Hutchinson and Bellotti combined beautifully again, and the ball over the top from the latter found Ajayi and he showed a fleet foot to round the stranded goalkeeper and place the ball into an empty net – 2-0 to the home side after only ten minutes. The first real inroads made by the Moles came from an ex Woods player in Wayne O’Sullivan, who roamed into empty space and curled a teasing cross along the six yard box that screamed out for someone to connect with it, though no-one did and the attack grounded to a halt.

Northwood’s excellent start to proceedings had a slight dampener to it when Spencer Bellotti collided with an Aylesbury defender whilst trying to control a loose ball in the danger zone. The diminutive front man immediately went down holding his ankle and that caused instant concern for the home dugout. One must hope that it isn’t as bad as the ligament injury he suffered in pre-season that caused him to miss a month – the only benefit from Gary Meakin’s perspective was that he got to bring on Olly Hawkins who had netted a second half hat-trick on Bank Holiday Monday in the rout at Farm Park. Having made the change Northwood were being pinned back deep in their own half for the first time in the game and had it not been for an important intervention from Craig White, then there may well have been greater consequences to follow.

Again the Woods were looking to penetrate the Aylesbury backline down the right hand side and were having tremendous success with Hutchinson and Ajayi linking up cohesively on numerous occasions, and those two almost provided that third goal of the afternoon. A short corner was whipped in and after White had flicked it on, Hewitt showed audacity with an attempted over head kick, but he got too much on it and in the end it was always rising. Then up the other end, Aylesbury forced James Reading into action for the first time in the match. The 21-year-old was forced to punch twice, and after the rebound wasn’t cleared sufficiently, tricky winger O’Sullivan tried a scissor kick which forced a good reflex save low down to his left from the former Hendon goalkeeper. The visiting side were now becoming more of a threat, and should have hit the target as James Faulkner glanced wide from close range.
But that pressure reaped its rewards when after thirty eight minutes, the away side broke in numbers  and – as is always the way with former players – the Woods allowed O’Sullivan time and space and he made them pay by curling a brilliant effort home beyond a helpless Reading from 25-yards.

The deficit had been halved and now Aylesbury had something of a spring in their step. O’Sullivan was pulling all the strings towards the end of the first period and very nearly provided an assist for Davis Haule – who incidentally was on the scoresheet for Bedfont Town when the sides met last season – as he had his rifled effort bravely blocked by Scott Raper who appeared winded after ‘taking one for the team’. Moments later and Northwood very nearly re-established their two goal advantage when after exceptional work from Ajayi he picked out Hawkins who saw his effort deflected, which inadvertently almost fell kindly for Christian but fortunately for the visiting contingent it just evaded the midfielder.

Gary Meakin made one change at half-time, bringing off Romaine Walker who had been fairly quiet by his standards, and bringing on Kyle Matthews in his place. And having been brought on, the ex Watford Youth player was involved immediately being the recipient of an Ajayi diagonal cross, and after controlling well, Luke Abraham managed to get a foot in front of him and upend him while playing the ball although any half hearted appeals for a spot kick were quickly silenced. Yet moments later, the hosts came close to adding the third goal they were so desperately seeking when Matthews showed great awareness to find Christian and his dipping effort at pace was helped over the bar by a deflection. Then, the Woods were dealt a sucker punch when after fifty three minutes Sonny French’s through ball found Faulkner who beat the offside trap and he showed decent composure to place the ball beyond Reading and hand his side an equaliser. Now the visitors had the bit between their teeth and were now pressing forward in numbers, though the centre half pairing of captain Reece Yorke and Brad Hewitt were holding firm.

Two minutes later, and Hawkins found himself inches away from handing his side the lead for the second time in the match. His shot on the turn had Roberts scampering though it was marginally the wrong side of the post. Up the other end, Moles substitute Nuah Shiblu looked lively and his surprise shot from a ridiculous angle forced a smart reflex stop from Reading who reacted well to parry it clear and just far enough to evade an arriving attacker. Then, it was Northwood who were left cursing their luck when a deft touch and turn of pace from Hutchinson gave the home side some attacking impetus, and his perfectly weighted pass found Hawkins one on one. The tall, hard working striker ought to feel disappointed after the ball crashed off the outside of the right upright, when he may have felt he should have hit the target, or even scored.

Frustrated they may have been, however, the Woods wouldn’t have to wait too much longer for that decisive third goal of the game. Matthews played a ball into space behind the opposition defence, and although Hawkins arrived second favourite to claim the ball his perseverance paid off. After claiming the loose ball he drove into the area before sliding a smooth pass across for the arriving Christian, and the ever impressive midfielder drove an effort low and hard under the Aylesbury goalkeeper to give Northwood a 3-2 lead after sixty four minutes. The urgency shown by the home side didn’t diminish and there was tension to put the game beyond all doubt. The exceptional Ajayi beat Grace for pace and left him for dead before being cynically tugged to the ground. Christian’s deep free kick that followed was nodded goal wards by Yorke but not with the intended direction and it went wide of the post. Christian – who was by now on a hat-trick – showed great stamina to burst forward again before unleashing Matthews, and his deflected cross come shot almost found its way to last year’s Player of the Year yet Roberts managed to grasp the loose ball.

Aylesbury’s player manager Faulconbridge then brought himself on and his side were almost gifted a goal. Hewitt’s stray pass released Shiblu and had it not been for the intervention of Yorke and a hash clearance by Raper which landed on the roof of the net, then it could have been a lot worse. The game was now becoming increasingly stretched, and the Woods winger Matthews was doing his best to exploit that by embarking on a mazy run. His loose through ball very nearly turned into an assist as James Fraser slammed the ball into Roberts’ midriff and the shot stopper did very well to hold on again. Then Ajayi was in the thick of the action soon after, as he showed strength to out muscle the defender before going for glory himself, and his deflected effort fortuitously found Hawkins but he could not get sufficient contact to beat the goalkeeper, who kept it out on the line.

Whereas in the past, Northwood may have tried to do much, on this occasion they were composed and very disciplined in trying to seal this victory, and they did just that. Hawkins very nearly added gloss to the score line in stoppage time as he found the side netting, though Gary Meakin would settle for the 3-2 victory, despite valiant efforts from Aylesbury who at one stage fought back from 2-0 down to level the match early in the second period. Perhaps it was even more satisfying for the home contingent as this win marked our first success against Aylesbury at the fifth attempt, whilst ensuring we picked up our third win in a week. The Woods now make the long trip to Daventry Town on Tuesday evening, before travelling to the Meadow to face Chesham United in the FA Cup this time next week. Fingers crossed Woods can keep their winning run going for a little while longer, and who knows, maybe instigate a long overdue Cup run?

“It’s nice to get another win, and we played well but we need to stop giving silly goals away. We are making it hard for ourselves but I guess we got there in the end. The lads showed resolve to get the winning goal although we shouldn’t have needed to get another as we ought to have killed the game off. Getting goals like that (in close games) is in our make-up so that’s pleasing with the way we kept going.

“Spencer Bellotti went off with a recurrence of the injury he suffered in pre-season, although it’s not as serious. He’s been playing through it a bit if you like – if we had a massive squad with loads of strikers then we wouldn’t put him out there, and we could avoid having to patch him up to get him out on the pitch. John Christian and Adamson Ajayi were impressive – they’ve continued what they did in pre-season and are kicking on. It was their turn this week and no doubt it will be someone else’s next time; even if we play poorly if we have someone who can step up and perform, we should be fine.

“We now have a long away trip to Daventry Town on Tuesday, after work and everything, it will be a test for us, but that’s non-league football! We have to go there and settle and then push on and not be there simply to make up the numbers, though there is no reason why we can’t go to Communications Park and get the win.”