AVELEY 3, WARE 1
A WEEK of hard work and innovation ended in a routine win for Justin Gardner’s Millers.
Snow and sub-zero temperatures tore the non-league football schedule to shreds, but that didn’t deter Aveley as secretary Craig Johnson worked miracles to ensure the Millfield pitch was playable, the team - unable to train as normal – took part in spinning classes as they prepared for the visit of relegation battlers Ware.
Gardner commended the behind-the-scenes efforts of his players and staff, who ended up closing the gap on Maldon and Tiptree, Grays and Heybridge above them.
The clash at Millfield, which saw Aveley win 3-1 against the ten men of Ware, was one of just two fixtures that actually went ahead in Ryman Division One North.
The manager said: “Credit to Craig for getting the game on. There were only two games in the league and it’s done us a massive favour because we have a little bit more respite rather than having to play a midweek game.
“I’m pleased that it went ahead and that we got the three points.”
The prolific Jordan Cox gave Aveley the lead in the 19th minute, twisting cleverly on the edge of the six-yard box to head home Jack Stevenson’s chipped cross from the right.
Rashid Kamara, who was fantastic throughout, cropped up all over the pitch, tackled well and used the ball intelligently.
It was the he who scored Miller’s second at the end of the first half, when his well struck shot from the edge of the area deflected in off a Ware defender, fooling keeper Rhys Madden.
Nine minutes into the second half, Cox latched onto a through ball, went round Madden and slid the ball into the back of the net to put the game beyond doubt and score his 17th goal of the season.
Moments later, Ware blew any hope they had of salvaging something from the game when Martin Standen was shown a straight red card for palming away Teddy Nesbitt after the pair clashed following a tough tackle by Standen on the touchline.
With 15 minutes to play, Tim Shaw scored a consolation goal for Ware, albeit a superb one, as he dinked the ball over Aveley keeper Andre Foster before heading into an empty net.
But Millers ran out comfortable winners.
Gardner added: “I expected us to win today. I told the players before the game that if we play to our strengths, work hard and let the ball do the work, we will win and that was the case.
“I’m always going to want more and I thought we could have got a few more goals but a win’s a win. I felt in the last 10 or 15 minutes the boys took their foot off the gas and perhaps thought the game was won, so stopped doing the right things and I would have liked to see us keep going.
“But we take each game as it comes now. If you start thinking ahead it’s going to blow up in your face.”
On his side’s new secret weapon which sees his side hop on exercise bikes, Gardner said: “One of the players works at a gym and said he could get us in. I said I’d heard of spinning but wasn’t sure what it was and he said we could do a class.
“Gary [Nisbet, the fitness coach] did a gym session with them beforehand, then we did a spinning session and it was good. I did it myself on Tuesday and it was really hard!
“We’ve been training all week, in the gym and worked hard. There are not many teams fitter than us.”
Aveley: Foster; Sands, Nesbitt, Leader, Thomas (c); Hopkins (Sellears 69’), Kamara, Stevenson; Cox, (Cole 71’), Dadson, (Burnett, 69’), Appiah.
Gazette MoM: Rashid Kamara
Aveley were due to face Tilbury in a tantalising Thurrock derby on Tuesday. For full coverage, go to www.thurrockgazette.co.uk