Stags Strike Seven to Sink Stevenage despite Second-half Stutter
Hertford Men's 1st team got back to winning ways on Saturday thanks to a first half display that put them out of reach of Stevenage, despite a poorer second half showing.
James Rollins returned to the side to cover absent player-coach Nick Downer and Alfie Hubble made his first team debut, coming in for the injured Joseph Mari.
Hertford started quickly and had things much their own way, as would be the case for most of the first half.
An expansive passing move from left to right found Darren Norman in space, who ran around the baseline and pulled the ball back across a crowded area, somehow evaded the masses, only to arrive with Michael Branford at the top of the circle, who controlled with his first touch and flicked hard into the bottom left corner of the goal with his second, to open the scoring and his account for the season.
The hosts kept up the pressure, doubling their advantage before long. Greg Page drove in from left and when too many defenders were pulled towards the ball he slipped a pass to Ben Van Rooyen who had plenty of time to crash the ball onto the backboard for his sixth of the season.
The hosts could have made it three within the first fifteen minutes. The first short corner of the day didn't go to plan, but broke to Ian Dunnett following in from his injection. With no angle to shoot he slid the ball across to James Rollins on the penalty spot who found a defender's foot with his strike into what was otherwise an open net.
Ben Tootell took the resultant penalty stroke, but his flick didn't have the intended power, and could only meet the stick of the Stevenage net-minder.
Stevenage showed some increased resistance, but were undone as Arthur Twyning registered a quick-fire brace before half time. This time van Rooyen slipped the ball to Page at the top of the circle, whose shot could only be parried into the path of Twyning. The youngster swept high into the net on his reverse stick for his maiden goal for the 1st team. It was only a few minutes later when the visitors failed to react as Dunnett quickly took a self-pass free-hit and struck a ball to the back post, where Twyning reacted brilliantly to glance the ball from the wrong side of his body back across goal and into the far corner to make it four-nil at the interval.
It's an old adage but it certainly was a game of two halves. Stevenage had rightly had a stern talking to at half time and started the second half with an intensity Hertford weren't ready for. Having less time on the ball, Hertford were pressed into mistakes and gifted the visitors a glimmer of hope in the game. In what was to become a pattern, a cross from the right hand side and a melee around the penalty spot resulted in a Stevenage forward finding a gap to slide the ball under Max Capaldi in the Hertford goal.
Hertford thought they had restored the four goal advantage almost immediately when van Rooyen's penalty corner strike was charged down by the first runner, only to break to Rollins, who slotted it home at the near post, but after some consultation the umpires adjudged the first shot to have been too high.
Somewhat aggrieved, Hertford pressed for a fifth, and got it from a short corner after Dunnett had been tripped on a foray into the circle. Page with the telling touch from a well-worked routine.
But Stevenage continued to cause problems, and got a second courtesy of a similar move to the first, this time with a neat deflection over Capaldi.
And then things got nervy, as Stevenage made it 5-3. An unnecessary penalty corner was given away as Hubble failed to retreat five metres from a free hit, which was well converted by Stevenage playing the old one-two around the first runner and slotting it into the bottom right corner.
Fortunately for Hertford they rediscovered their shooting boots and put the game beyond reasonable doubt with two more. van Rooyen held the ball up well, and flicked a through ball to find the run of Dunnett, who managed to bring the ball down and round the sliding goalie and finish to get his first of the season.
Shortly afterwards it was van Rooyen as the provider again, this time driving into the circle and committing the keeper before selflessly feeding Norman on the back post who had all the time in the world - which he used every second of - rolling the ball over the line from a yard out.
Stevenage kept pressing and did register a fourth when yet another cross from the right found a telling deflection, but Hertford closed out the game to make it four wins from five.
The victory leaves Hertford second in division 3SW, behind leaders - and division new-boys - Saffron Walden 2s only on goal difference.
This weekend Hertford travel to Watford to face West Herts 4s, who currently sit bottom of the table.
Hertford: Max Capaldi; Elliot Barling, Simon Halfacre, Ben Tootell, Jamie O'Sullivan; Ian Dunnett, Michael Branford, James Rollins; Greg Page, Darren Norman, Ben Van Rooyen. Subs: Alfie Hubble, Arthur Twyning.