Six Shooter Scott Sinks Witham
By Ian Dunnett
Hertford Men’s 1s finished the first half of their league season by extending their unbeaten run to ten games, winning 5-8 away at bottom club Witham, thanks to a double hat-trick from in-form striker Scott Apps.
Full-backs Elliot Barling and Taylor Weeks returned to the match day squad, and with Darren Norman unavailable Hertford gave a debut to teenager Ewen Macpherson.
The rain - which had been persistent during the day - subsided for the encounter, leaving a very quick surface for both sides to exploit in a topsy-turvey first half.
Apps opened the scoring from a set-piece penalty corner, after Nick Downer had been halted when trying to drive in from the baseline on the right of the D, but Witham levelled within a few minutes. The visitors’ marking was absent as a free-hit just outside the D was switched to the top of the circle, and then crashed to the back post where a waiting striker did well to get a shot off from a tight angle, forcing the ball over the line off a combination of Tom Smith’s shoulder and helmet in the Hertford goal.
The Stags retook the lead not long after as Apps doubled his tally in the game. A good diagonal ball in from the left flank found MacPherson posting up in the circle. His clever lay-off into Apps’ path gave him room for the shot. The keeper did well to parry the first effort, but the rebound fell kindly for Apps to dink the ball home.
Not to be outdone Witham rallied again with a spectacular equaliser. Some excellent interplay and first time touches completely undid Hertford’s midfield creating room for an attacker to have a run at goal. An instinctive strike from the right of the D arrowed beyond Smith’s right hand and into the top corner.
There was still time for more goals in the first half. In a similar fashion to Hertford’s second a diagonal ball in to a posting forward created the chance. This time Apps and MacPherson swapped roles as Apps turned provider, with MacPherson showing excellent composure to find the bottom corner to open his first team account.
A final goal of the half made it three each. A Witham penalty corner was executed well with a drag-flick nestling in the top of the net, passing over the head of the masked defender on the line.
Hertford had played out goalless second halves in three of their last five matches, however that pattern wasn’t going to be repeated today as a ten minute spell after half time effectively ended the contest.
Luke Camilleri showed some deft skill to wriggle free on the left hand side, feeding Apps' run. Apps forced his way through the last defender’s stick, and as the ball deflected up he used it to his advantage to play the ball in the air, artfully lobbing the on-rushing goalie for a pleasing finish.
Full of confidence and with the passes flowing a little more Hertford struck again. Downer jinking with the ball and providing the pass for Apps to smash a reverse stick strike into the net to make it 3-5.
Apps got his fifth from another trademark drag-flick, this time picking out a different to to his opener, before Witham found their feet again. The Essex outfit put a good passing move together to release a winger down the right channel. He cut inside and drove around the back of the Hertford defence, squaring a pass across the goalmouth for a waiting striker to sweep a finish high into the net despite the best efforts of Smith and Simon Halfacre sprawling across to tackle.
The goals continued to flow. Apps used some 3D skills to create the opportunity for a cross from the left, finding Adrian Fileczki on the penalty spot who in turn laid off to James Rollins supporting from midfield. Rollins had plenty of time to pick his spot and get off a solid strike for his first goal of the season.
It was 4-8 before long. MacPherson span his marker on the right, and drove into the circle, unselfishly drawing out the keeper and squaring for Apps to complete his second hat trick of the match, with a sliding finish for the cameras.
There was time for one more goal at the other end when a crash ball into the circle was deflected first time through a crowd, wrong-footing Smith, making the final score 5-8.
The win keeps Hertford in 2nd place in Divison 2S, two points off the top spot.
In their final game before the seasonal break Hertford travel to fourth placed East London where they’ll be looking for revenge for their only defeat so far which came on the opening day of the season.
Hertford - Tom Smith; Elliot Barling, Simon Halfacre, Jamie O’Sullivan; Luke Camilleri, James Rollins, Ian Dunnett; Scott Apps, Arthur Twyning, Nick Downer. Subs - Taylor Weeks, Adrian Fileczki, Ewen Macpherson.