Hard to beat Hertford Halfway there
Hertford Men's 1st team navigated a tricky home tie on Saturday, running out 2-0 winners against Welwyn Garden City to finish the first half of the season unbeaten.
Injury and illness had plagued the men's ranks as Ciaran Begg, Ben Tootell and Marcus Stirling dropped out. Top-scorers Darren Norman and Ben Van Rooyen returned up front, but Hertford were still forced to play the game with only one substitute.
The home side dictated the early pace, but weren't able to break down a firm back-line. van Rooyen placed a reverse stick shot wide, then Arthur Twyning's first time shot was well smothered, before Norman's strike from the angle on the right of the D also found the keeper in good form.
It was fully twenty minutes before Hertford managed to break the deadlock. A penalty corner routine was saved by a strong right boot of the Welwyn goalie, but retrieved on the left side of the D by Nick Downer whose strong strike came back off the leg pads of the net-minder to van Rooyen who returned the ball with interest, somehow squeezing the ball through the legs of the keeper, when there didn't seem to be any room to do so.
The hosts continued to have the lion-share of possession but an overly direct approach meant they were too easily snuffed out, being unable to increase their lead before the break.
Welwyn redoubled their efforts at the start of the second half and made things uncomfortable for Hertford over a ten minute period. A higher press and some rushed decision making made the hosts look edgy.
The turning point in the game came from a Welwyn penalty corner. A drag-flick looked to be heading over Ian Pledger in the Hertford goal, having committed himself to going to ground, but he somehow stretched up a left glove to claw it out of the air. The rebound fell to an attacker six yards out and with the goal at his mercy, he inextricably lifted the ball wide.
Breathing a sigh of relief Hertford regained some momentum and found opportunities to run at goal with Welwyn trying to commit more men forward, inevitably leaving some gaps at the back.
A quickly taken free hit by Ian Dunnett caught the defence napping, with a reverse through-ball finding the run of van Rooyen, but his first-time diving shot flew narrowly wide of the left upright.
van Rooyen and Norman then had a good interchange on the left, but Norman got his feet in a tangle at the crucial moment.
Hertford made the game safe with ten minutes to go. Nick Downer colelcting the ball on the right hand side of the D and when the keeper came out to close down his angle he had the presence of mind to slip the ball square to Dunnett, who let the pass run across his body, leaving an empty net for a simple reverse stick finish.
The hosts could have put some gloss on the performance towards the end when a three-on-one breakaway ended with Norman's just evading Twyning and a penalty corner in the last minute being well executed, but with the final shot being too straight to beat the keeper.
The win keep Hertford in 2nd place in Division 3SW, separated from Harpenden in top-spot only on goals scored.
This Saturday Hertford travel to mid-table Cheshunt in their last fixture before the Christmas break.
Hertford: Ian Pledger; Elliot Barling, Simon Halfacre, Jamie O'Sullivan, Michael Branford; Ian Dunnett, Nick Downer, James Rollins; Arthur Twyning, Darren Norman, Ben Van Rooyen. Sub: Chris Vincent