Hertford Halted in Hitchin
By Ian Dunnett
Despite leading on three occasions, Hertford Men’s 1st team slipped to their third defeat of the season on Saturday, losing 4-3 at Blueharts 2s thanks to a frantic and fractious last 20 minutes.
James Rollins was recalled in midfield and Taylor Weeks joined the defensive ranks for the match on Blueharts’ newly opened astroturf at the Lucas Lane development.
Blueharts should have taken the lead after ten minutes, when a mix-up at the back for Hertford and an uncharacteristic missed tackle from Simon Halfacre left a man over on the right of the circle, however the attacker almost seemed to have too much time in lining up the shot, pulling his effort left of target.
Hertford punished the miss by taking the lead at the other end. Ben Van Rooyen took a quick free hit, winning a penalty corner when the active defender didn’t retreat the mandatory five metres. The set piece was slotted home by van Rooyen after a neat routine resurrected from seasons gone by for the South African’s second in as many games.
As was to be the pattern of the match, the visitors all too soon conceded a soft equaliser. A penalty corner did the damage with a loopy-looking flicked effort evading Tom Smith’s left boot in the Hertford net.
van Rooyen could have reestablished the lead when he skilfully turned his man and had an open shot in the circle, but the effort slid right of the target.
Hertford reasserted themselves and probably had the best of the remaining minutes in the first half. The forwards were inter-linking more, and stretching play. A good move in the dying minutes of the half gave them the advantage at the break. Arthur Twyning worked room for a shot on the right of the circle, which was well closed down by the sprawling goalie. Twyning dragged the ball back and flicked over the keeper where Scott Apps was on hand to deflect it past the man on the line.
All too soon after half time Blueharts restored parity when the defending left something to be desired...two players hesitated when they thought a tackle had put the ball on the attacker’s foot, but the umpire played on and a cross from the left byline led to an easy tap-in at the back post.
Hertford were having to shuffle their cards in defence as first Halfacre succumbed to an Achilles problem, then his centre back partner Ben Tootell tweaked a hamstring.
Despite the rearranging, Hertford took the lead again. An Apps drag-flicked set piece hit the foot of the defender on the line, with Nick Downer calmly dispatching the penalty stroke to make it 2-3.
But once more Hertford slipped. A penalty corner at the other end, duly awarded after a poor attempt at a recovery tackle on the left flank, was injected to the wrong side of the stopper, and sent wide where the player cut back and put a cross on his reverse to the back post for a waiting striker to crash the ball high into the net, with the goal standing despite Hertford asking whether the first shot form the short corner was too high.
Hertford could have got a fourth when some slick passing saw Darren Norman craft an opening, only to see his shot come back off the far post, agonisingly evading the dive of Twyning.
With the game becoming more stretched the midfield of both sides was being bypassed and chances were worryingly easy to come by.
Blueharts forced the winner, when an overlap on the left saw a cross fired in at a difficult height. With a forward waiting for a tap-in at the back post, Ben Tootell was forced to play at one that moved away from him outside off stump, edging it past Smith into his own net.
Hertford threw everything at trying to get back into the game, sacrificing a defender to push an extra man forward, but the intensity level erred on the wrong side of aggression for the umpires as Rollins, Weeks and Twyning all had overlapping enforced spells on the sideline.
In the dying minutes Hertford won a short corner thanks to good work by Norman, but van Rooyen was unable to repeat his first half effort, with Blueharts clinching the three points.
With a few results elsewhere going Hertford’s way, they hang on to thirds in the table, but will be looking for a much improved performance when they host mid-table Wapping 4ths at the Simon Balle ground this Saturday.
Hertford - Tom Smith; Elliot Barling, Simon Halfacre, Ben Tootell, Jamie O’Sullivan; Ian Dunnett, James Rollins, Nick Downer; Scott Apps, Arthur Twyning, Darren Norman. Subs - Taylor Weeks, Adrian Fileczki, Ben Van Rooyen.