Ardley are through to the final for third year

Jon Gardner was on target for Ardley United at Rayners Lane
Jon Gardner was on target for Ardley United at Rayners Lane

Ardley United put their recent poor run behind them to book their place in the final of the Bluefin Sports Challenge Cup for the third year running.

Kevin Brock’s side produced a hard fought 2-1 victory at Rayners Lane in Tuesday’s semi-final.

A classic game of two halves saw the visitors take control and went ahead in the sixth minute. A high ball from Ollie Stanbridge was missed by Jon Gardner but the ball fell to Conor Ingram who ran through to beat Rory Mullane despite the keeper getting a hand to it.

Ardley increased their advantage in the 15th minute when a Diego Petriaggi free-kick was headed against the post by Chris Jackson with Gardner knocking home the rebound from close range.

The home side’s first attempt came midway through the half when a speculative cross was just tipped behind by Jack Harding. Ardley almost increased their lead but Mullane brilliantly whipped the ball off of Luke Ingram’s feet as he was about to shoot.

Rayner’s Lane came out for the second half in much better form and Jamal Stewart and substitute Reece Chaudry both had good chances but they either shot wide or saw Harding make a good save.

They pulled a goal back with seven minutes remaining when substitute Zeon Thomas and Chaudry combined. Thomas outpaced the Ardley defence and his shot was parried by Harding but Thomas put the ball back across goal for Chaudry to score from close range.

Conor Ingram had a glorious chance but his lob over the keeper went just wide. In stoppage-time Emmanuel Sam almost equalised but his far post header was held by Harding.