By Ian Dunnett
Hertford continued to raise eyebrows in division 2S on Saturday with a hard fought performance at the Lee Valley stadium running out winners against Wapping 4th XI by three goals to one, thanks to a brace from captain Ian Dunnett.
Hertford were forced to ring the changes once again this week with player-coach Nick Downer unavailable along with along with Taylor Weeks. Alec Short made his first appearance of the season, and 2nd team player-of-the-season Luke Brown stepped in at left back for his competitive 1st team debut. Tom Smith was available once more in goal and Luke Rawlinson replaced Ben Tootell up front.
The water-based pitch was playing a little slower than anticipated in warm conditions which made for a sometimes turgid affair in midfield.
After an opening spell where no one was able to make the most of possession, with both sides giving it away too cheaply, it was the hosts who edged in front. When a Hertford defender got too close to a forward posting up just outside the D, the Wapping player rolled him and created a two on one against the last man back. A neat exchange of passes drew Smith off his line, and although he had his back to goal the forward knew where the target was, finding the net with a reverse stick flick.
As in the previous two weeks, Hertford didn’t really get going until fifteen minutes were on the clock. Finding some cohesion, a flowing move down the right hand side gave Luke Camilleri the chance to show some deft skill, beating his man and squaring for Dunnett. With his favoured reverse side blocked off, the captain swung back across the top of the D, forcing the ball over the flat stick of a defender and took a snap-shot. Darren Norman took evasive action leaving an unsighted goalie with little chance as the ball nestled in the top corner.
Hertford used the momentum to to push ahead. Arthur Twyning went on a typically mazy run, drawing in defenders and eventually being scythed down in the circle. The first few penalty corners of the day hadn’t found any rhythm, but when the injection and stop were clean, Scott Apps took full advantage, unleashing a low flick that crashed against the back-board for his sixth in only three appearances.
It needed a bit of good fortune for Hertford to retain the lead in the final few minutes of the half. An overload from Wapping, this time down the left, had defenders scrambling to cover. Smith did well to smother the first attempt, but was stricken as the follow-up clattered back off the crossbar and away from danger.
The second half ebbed and flowed, with neither side able to take their chances. Jamie O’Sullivan did what he deemed necessary to prevent an attack, turning his left instep into the ball when a forward was well-placed beyond him in the D. Although it was the visitors who could have extended their lead in the ensuing five minutes with ten men as Norman and Rawlinson combined well on the break, but couldn’t find the final shot on target.
Arthur Twyning was the next to go close. The first attempt from a switched penalty corner routine came back of the upright, but the ball agonisingly span away from the teenager at the back post.
Short also could have wrapped things up. An overlap on the left, created by the skills of Camilleri, drew out the entire Wapping defence. Short continued his supporting run straight down the middle of the pitch, with Norman playing the ball across from the left-flank. Short’s indecisiveness saw him closed down by the keeper rushing off his line, with Short’s shot straight at the leg pads of the closing net-minder.
At the other end a combination of Smith and James Rollins were required to keep Wapping out. The former stopping well and reacting sharply to not kill the ball, with the latter on hand to clear away.
Hertford extended their advantage with less than ten minutes on the clock. Dunnett was the benefactor of his own poor injection from a short corner as it was gathered and slipped right to Norman who fired it into the goal-mouth where Dunnett had snuck in to get a telling deflection in front of the keeper for his fourth of the season.
The final minutes passed without a threat on Hertford’s goal as the ever watchful and perfectly placed man-of-the-match Halfacre denied a number of attempted long range balls into the D.
As Wapping pushed more player forwards Hertford could have had a fourth on the break. Once again Norman and Rawlinson combined, but after a good spin at the top of the circle Rawlinson’s shot beat the keeper but was a yard the wrong side of the near post.
The win moves Hertford up into third in the table. This Saturday they will face a stern test as second placed Bedford 2s - who sit above Hertford on goal difference - visit the Simon Balle ground.
Hertford - Tom Smith; Elliot Barling, Jamie O’Sullivan, Simon Halfacre, Luke Brown; Ian Dunnett, James Rollins, Luke Camilleri; Darren Norman, Scott Apps, Arthur Twyning. Subs: Alec Short, Luke Rawlinson.