A win’s a win
By Ian Dunnett
Hertford Men’s 1st team produced a nervy second half display, holding out for a 2-1 win against Colchester on Saturday, thanks to an early brace from Scott Apps.
It was the fourth week in a row Hertford made at least four changes to the match day squad. James Rollins and Nick Downer returned in midfield in place of Mike Branford and Marcus Stirling. Simon Halfacre was back for his first game in three weeks after picking up a shoulder injury, with Elliot Barling absent, and striker Ben Van Rooyen came in for his second appearance of the season for Archie Akers.
The contest started fairly evenly, but like many sides so far this season, Colchester made the mistake of trying to attack Hertford’s left back area.
The home side turned over possession and launched a quick counter attack. Nick Downer released Arthur Twyning, who scampered away from his marker. Twyning combined well with Darren Norman, who drove to the baseline, getting his feet round well, and unselfishly pulling the ball back across goal for the waiting Apps.
Apps still had work to do from an acute angle and with the goalie sliding to cover, but he showed excellent composure to wait for the net minder to commit himself, finishing with a high flick into the net.
It was only moments later when Apps doubled his tally, and Hertford’s advantage. Working his way into the circle, Apps was tackled through the back of his stick to win a penalty corner. Even though the injection was slightly off the mark, Halfacre and Apps adjusted well, with the latter fizzing a drag-flick onto the backboard to take the summer signing into double figures in only six appearances.
The visitors were by no means out of the contest. A trio of skilful youngsters - the type Hertford had expected to encounter more regularly in this division - were causing problems running at the Hertford defence, although it was a more speculative ball into the circle which won them a penalty corner as Jamie O’Sullivan was unsighted and couldn’t react in time to avoid it hitting his foot.
The routine was flicked straight at Tom Smith in the Hertford goal, but the rebound fell kindly for the striker following his shot in, making no mistake with a well-timed slap into the net, beyond Smith’s left glove.
Hertford had to work hard to maintain their lead into the break, with O’Sullivan having to pick a rebound out of the air, Smith turning a high strike around his left post, and Halfacre deftly deflecting the ball over the top of the Colchester front line.
As with last week’s encounter against Ipswich East-Suffolk, Hertford will largely want to forget their second half performance. They lost any sense of fluidity in the attacking third, wasting a number of penalty corner opportunities, and they had to live on their wits at the back.
Twyning had to track all the back to the penalty spot, playing a pull shot off from waist high to get the ball away from danger. Ian Dunnett used every inch of his reach to jab the ball at the last second when Colchester’s goal scorer was lined up to shoot, and Halfacre had to test how well his shoulder had recovered when running back towards his own goal and having to pick an aerial out of the sky, right above his own head when it looked like the break was on.
With neither side getting the outcomes they wanted, frustration grew. When Scott Apps turned his man well in the middle of the pitch, the defender tried to ‘get back’ at him from Apps’ blind side. The Hertford attacker stepped across his line to protect the ball, resulting in the Colchester player being unceremoniously dumped to the ground. To add insult to injury, the player then received a yellow card for the attempted ‘tackle’ and creating dangerous play.
Hertford couldn’t take advantage of their opposition being down to ten men, but saw out the remaining minutes to clinch the three points.
The win keeps Hertford in third place in the table. This Saturday they make the long trip to Felixstowe where they’ll be looking to extend their 100% away record.
Hertford - Tom Smith; Jamie O’Sullivan, Simon Halfacre, Ben Tootell, Taylor Weeks; Ian Dunnett, Nick Downer, Luke Camilleri; Darren Norman, Scott Apps, Arthur Twyning. Subs - James Rollins, Ben Van Rooyen