On arrival at Halton, the first challenge of the day involved negotiations to get our pitch back!
Faced with a delay of an hour and a half, diplomatic skills were employed (thank you Simon), the pitch finally cleared and the game finally got under way a mere half an hour late.
Facing a Blueharts team one place above us on goal difference, we were keen to reverse the away result and continue our winning streak. The game started in a slightly wobbly fashion, Berko allowing Blueharts to get on the front foot and mount a number of early assaults. We soaked up the early pressure well and started to get a bit more possession and were soon pressing the Blueharts defence and winning a number of short corners. Unfortunately we were unable to convert this pressure into goals and it was the away team that struck first, an individual effort unhappily scored by the most obnoxious of the opposition players who showed an annoying turn of pace that surprised Holderness and left him in a heap.
Not disheartened, Berko kept their heads up and kept pressing winning more penalty corners but the score was unchanged at half time.
The second half began with Berko possession, Blueharts deciding to play a half court press perhaps sitting back to protect their 1 – 0 lead!? Berko dealt with it well, not rushing things, working the angles and exploiting spaces down both flanks. This soon led to yet another penalty corner which this time was slick and well struck by Payton, the keeper, who had foiled all previous attempts, could only get a toe to it and the ball was in the net. 1 all and Berko were spurred on anew, Blueharts defence having to work hard with the home team bossing the game. A solid but phlegmy return for Gainer in central midfield aided by Graham, Gray, Webb senior, Moorhouse and Baxter. An excellent cameo played by Peplow junior who’d come along to support dad and watch, luckily he had some shorts with him! Shame he lives in Portsmouth! Webb junior had switched to right wing where he felt more at home. Good work down that flank was causing problems for the opposition and it wasn’t long before another penalty corner was awarded. This time it struck the keeper’s right toe and seemed to be a good save but eagle-eyed Peplow senior spotted the ball being deflected on to a defender’s foot on the line. Penalty stroke! Payton took responsibility and stepped up to expertly dispatch the ball into the top right of the net. 2 – 1.
The last 10 minutes were a bit nervy and Berko were nearly undone by a couple of quick breaks. However excellent last ditch tackling from Graham in particular and good defending at penalty corners kept the score as it was and provided Berko with a well-deserved victory.
Many thanks to Peter and Neil for keeping control and dealing with the constant winging from and a disgruntled Blueharts team.
At last! Man of the match went to 2-goal Payton. We haven’t heard the last of that!
Berkhamsted - 2 Blueharts - 1