Clouds have silver lining for stags
Hertford Men’s 1s made it back-to-back wins on Saturday, responding to a poor opening few minutes to run out 7-2 winners at the Simon Balle ground against Blueharts 2s in torrential conditions.
Sam Timms made his 1st team debut in goal, standing in for the absent Tom Smith, with Ben Tootell making his first appearance of the season after Adrian Fileczki picked up a hamstring strain.
It was the worst possible start for the hosts as they hadn’t even touched the ball when the opposition won a penalty corner in the opening minutes. The set piece was duly dispatched with the simplest of routines crashing onto the backboard beyond Timm’s right foot.
Hertford composed themselves and started to make inroads into the Blueharts defence, winning a short corner of their own. It looked like the opportunity had gone when a injection went to the wrong side of Simon Halfacre at the top of the D, but he showed calmness in controlling the ball, and committing the number one runner, slipping the ball left to Scott Apps. With little room to manoeuvre Apps somehow manufactured a shot with a reverse stick flick, finding the backboard via a deflection off the keeper, levelling the contest.
And it wasn’t long before the home side edged in front. Excellent interplay by Taylor Weeks and Nick Downer on the left hand side fed Apps near the base line, who jinked his way into the D, looking for a one-two with Ian Dunnett. With the return pass blocked off Dunnett drifted towards the top of the D, squeezing a shot under his arm on the turn. The effort caught the goalie by surprise, satisfyingly ricocheting into the goal off the post to give the skipper two goals in two games.
With the visitors looking a bit rattled Hertford pressed again. an arrowing drive into the D ended in a melee on the right hand side with the net minder, a few attackers and a few defenders all involved. The ball was cleared only as far as Nick Downer at the top of the circle and when Blueharts looked to the umpire for a whistle that wasn’t forthcoming the player-coach stroked a well-timed shot into the far corner to open his account for the season.
Despite the score line, Hertford’s defence weren’t having an easy time of it. Inviting undue pressure as the Dunnett gave away the ball cheaply playing out from the back, they had to defend a succession of penalty corners. Jamie O’Sullivan characterised the determination of the host’s rearguard when he expertly turned a drag-flicked set piece around the post to preserve the two-goal margin.
The visitors were made to rue the missed opportunities when good hold-up play and perseverance by Tootell won a short corner at the other end. Apps stepped up to double his tally with a powerful low flick to make it 4-1 at the break.
The first goal in the second half was always going to make or break the tie as a contest, but it was Hertford who turned on the style to undo any half-time motivation Blueharts had received.
An aerial down the sideline didn’t reach its target but was plucked from the sky by Apps, who fed the ever-willing run of Elliot Barling down the right flank. Barling drew his man out and fed Downer who in turn calmly squared to Darren Norman. The striker only needed one touch to control and a second to crash the ball home, beating on-rushing keeper at the near post to register his second of the season.
A lapse in concentration by the hosts let Blueharts register a second. A penalty corner was cleared only as far as the top of the circle where the attacker was afforded too much space to find a teammate in front of Timms. With his back to goal the forward cleverly committed Timms one way before swivelling the other and pushing the ball onto the backboard.
Not to be outdone Hertford produced the move of the game for their sixth. Overturning possession in the middle fo the park, Downer found Apps, who in turn threaded a pass down the middle to Luke Camilleri, who showed excellent skill in committing players and lifting a pass to Arthur Twyning. The youngster’s pace and 3D technique had been causing problems all day. With instant control he floated into the D, playing a weighted pass to the back post for Tootell to play a first-time deflection over the logging keeper.
Fittingly Apps - in a man of the match performance - completed the scoring, and his hat-trick, with the final goal of the game. Quick thinking and determination by James Rollins driving into the circle from the right won another penalty corner. Apps finished the move in style, unleashing a flick into the roof of the net with the defender on the line sensibly taking evasive action.
The win signals a statement of intent from Hertford, moving them up to fourth in division 2S. This weekend they travel to the Olympic stadium to play Wapping, where the same level of application will be required to get anything out of a surface which will favour the home side.
Hertford - Sam Timms; Elliot Barling, Simon Halfacre, Jamie O’Sullivan, Taylor Weeks; Ian Dunnett, Luke Camilleri, Nick Downer; Arthur Twyning, Darren Norman, Scott Apps. Subs: James Rollins, Ben Tootell.