In the trenches
Hertford Men's 1st team continued their run of good form, seeing off local rivals Broxbourne 2nd's 0-3 on Saturday thanks to some dogged defending and a brace from Ben van Rooyen.
Hertford rang the changes as regulars Elliot Barling, Ben Tootell, Darren Norman and Ben Van Rooyen rejoined the team, with Ian Pledger making his second appearance of the season in goal for the absent Max Capaldi, and Chris Vincent making his competitive debut for the 1st XI following a summer transfer from Winchmore Hill & Enfield.
The pattern for the game was established early on with Broxbourne enjoying possession, but not creating too many clear-cut attempts on goal, with Hertford's pace and willingness to get forward creating chances on the break, testing the host's rearguard with through balls and aerials.
After a good deal of frustration for the home side it was Hertford who broke the deadlock. A breakaway down the right hand side was led by Darren Norman, who twisted and turned, drawing out the centre-back, before slipping a pass inside to van Rooyen. The South African skillfully lifted the ball into space at the top of the D and struck an upright reverse shot on the bounce back across goal and into the right corner.
Hertford were made to continue to defend to keep their lead. van Rooyen worked back well, but then stayed too close to a free-hit and earned himself a green card.
Hertford then unfortunately lost the services of Greg Page as a wayward strike into the circle was heading for his head. Page reacted to get his hands in the way, but suffered what was later discovered to be a fractured ring finger.
Undeterred, the visitors doubled their lead. A break down the left hand side found van Rooyen - now back on the pitch - who drove into the circle, with the ball breaking to Ian Dunnett on the right. Dunnett cut back onto his left foot and tomahawked his shot in at the near-post, wrong-footing the goalie.
The home side reasserted themselves, calling Pledger into action on a few occasions before half-time, but some good anticipation and some poor short-corner execution from Broxbourne kept the score 0-2 at the break, despite Ben Tootell being asked to leave the field for five minutes following a vocal tirade.
Broxbourne came out with a renewed intensity in the 2nd half, which sometimes lost its control as they were the side having to play without a full contingent at times.
Hertford were having to defend more set pieces as they were forced to defend deeper and deeper, but the host's discipline still meant they were leaking chances at the other end of the pitch. ex-Hertford defender Gavin Elliot was shown a yellow-card as he halted van Rooyen who would have otherwise been through on goal.
He who hesitates is lost, and so it proved to be for Broxbourne as Hertford grabbed a third. When a whistle wasn't forthcoming on the edge of the D, Tootell took the opportunity to send a pass out to the right flank which Dunnett collected. Circling round and driving towards goal Dunnett dinked a pass to van Rooyen, who, with his back to goal, created a yard of space and unleashed a reverse-stick shot to notch his tenth of the season in only six appearances.
Late on Darren Norman seized on a mis-controlled aerial but failed to make the most of a two-on-one in the D, with the match ending on a penalty corner for Broxbourne on the final whistle. The effort fizzed past Pledger's left-hand post to preserve the clean sheet and secure the three points for Hertford.
The win keeps Hertford top of division 3SW, but knowing they'll have to remain on top of their game as they face unbeaten Saffron Walden 2s this Saturday at the Simon Balle ground.
Hertford: Ian Pledger; Elliot Barling, Simon Halfacre, Ben Tootell, Jamie O'Sullivan; Ian Dunnett, Nick Downer, Chris Vincent; Arthur Twyning, Greg Page, Ciaran Begg. Subs: Darren Norman, Ben Van Rooyen, Michael Branford.