For the second local derby in succession, Bracknell Town recorded a 3-2 victory but they were made to work very hard against an Ascot United side who saw former Larges Lane favourite Jon Palmer dismissed after four minutes.
Despite playing 86 minutes a man short, the Yellamen took the lead just shy of half time but could not hold out for long as former Racecourse Ground player Joe Grant equalised sixty seconds later.
Two second period Robins goals gave them a cushion but again the visitors showed tremendous character with captain Jesse Wilson – atoning for an earlier own goal – reducing arrears to one goal but they could not find a leveller.
Much has been made of the home side having lots of former Ascot players but the Yellamen themselves have seven players registered at some this point this season who have all called Larges Lane home but it certainly added a bit of spice to an already pumped up atmosphere.
Less than four minutes had been played when Palmer bought down Kensley Maloney just outside the penalty area to deny an obvious goal scoring opportunity. A red card followed and Adam Cornell’s resulting free-kick was defected wide.
The majority of the first half was all the hosts but they struggled to create clear opportunities as Ascot battled extremely hard.
Jamie McClurg had a shot blocked, George Short fired wide twice and Cornell saw a shot and a header miss the target with his headed effort the best chance of the lot.
Cornell sent another header over before Maloney scuffed a shot wide right. For the Yellamen, chances were few and far between with Gavin Brainch firing at Chris Grace and Gurkhan Gokman failing to hit the target from distance.
In the 44th minute however the visitors took the lead. James Goodey met a ball over the top and was suddenly free to run at Grace and he coolly fired beyond the advancing keeper.
The lead lasted less than sixty seconds though with a brilliant goal from Grant. Cutting inside from the right, he ghosted past three players before picking out the bottom left hand corner from about twenty yards but there were no celebrations against his former club. It was a classy goal and an even classier reaction.
Half Time: Bracknell Town 1 – 1 Ascot United
Shortly after the restart, Goodey wriggled free but couldn’t hit the target before the Robins moved ahead in the 58th minute when Wilson headed Grant’s cross beyond his own goalkeeper Carl Dennison.
Seb Bowerman shot well over from long range and then McClurg, Carl Withers and Johnnie Gray combined to set up Maloney who headed over. Maloney then tried to be too deft with Bowerman’s cross as another chance was squandered.
Maloney did win a 70th minute penalty though as he was far too skilful for Colin Mugoya who tripped him inside the box and Bowerman stepped up to slam home the spot-kick and give his side a two goal cushion.
Ascot got an 81st minute lifeline as Jack Smilie’s corner was strongly met by Wilson who climbed highest to powerfully head home and ensure a nervy last few minutes.
Bracknell still went for goal rather than electing to get the ball in the corner and run down the clock and they nearly got a fourth when Cornell had two more headed chances but he narrowly missed right and had another deflected out for a corner.
The visitors had one last chance in the fourth minute of stoppage time when Goodey headed on a corner inside a crowded penalty area but Wilson’s effort was cleared off the line by Gray.
It was an important victory for the Robins with fellow title rivals Thame United, Flackwell Heath and Highworth Town all winning although Thatcham Town could only draw to dent their own hopes.
Attention now turns to Boxing Day for Mark Tallentire’s side who host basement side Burnham before the short journey to Highmoor Ibis on New Year’s Eve. Two victories will ensure that Bracknell end 2016 at the top of the table as current leaders Thame are without a match on New Year’s Eve.
For Ascot, defeat will be a hard pill to swallow after working incredibly hard throughout and they can look forward to a trip to Binfield on Tuesday 27th December having already defeated the Moles 3-2 earlier this season at the Racecourse Ground.
Full Time: Bracknell Town 3 – 2 Ascot United
Bracknell Town: Grace, Hancock, Gray, Short (Withers 60), Rodrigues, Davies, Grant, McClurg, Cornell (Boon 86), Maloney, Bowerman. Subs not used: G Smith, D Smith, Senussi.
Ascot United: Dennison, Smilie, Brainch, Palmer, Wilson, Mugoya, Lamb (Gilpin 69), Sheehan, Goodey, Regragui (Davies 86), Gokman (Sinclair 80). Sub not used: Livingstone.