Stags See off Stortford
Hertford Men's 1st team maintained their promotion push with a comfortable eight-one win against Bishop Stortford on Saturday, thanks to four goals in each half, including a hat-trick from man-of-the-match Ben van Rooyen.
With James Rollins unavailable Hertford opted for a more attacking line-up, drafting in Luke Rawlinson for his fourth appearance of the season.
A very young looking Stortford side came out of the blocks with an intensity the hosts weren't prepared for, pressing high up the pitch and forcing some uncharacteristic errors, with Ian Pledger being called into action more in the first ten minutes than he was in the entirety of the previous week's game.
Hertford gathered themselves and found some rhythm by the ten minute mark, using the damp conditions to create some ball pace as they spread play well, stretching the visitor's defence.
Darren Norman broke the deadlock. Some patient build-up, and a strong ball into the circle was deflected up by a defender into his own goalie, and as Stortford took too long to attempt to clear, Norman was able to steal possession and calmly slot home for his 20th of the campaign.
With confidence buoyed, Hertford doubled their advantage before long. van Rooyen went on a typically jinking run into the right of the circle, trying to cross, twice being blocked by a defender, but with a good advantage being played, his third attempt was well struck to the penalty spot for Ciaran Begg to sweep the ball into the net.
The third came as a penalty corner drag-flick from Nick Downer was saved, with the rebound falling to Ian Dunnett on the baseline. Dunnett pulled the ball back to Rawlinson at the top of the circle, who fired into the crowded area, where Arthur Twyning cleverly glanced the ball into the bottom corner.
The home side were in fervent mood, working hard to create more opportunities, and after a few off target reverse stick efforts that didn't find the target, van Rooyen got in on the act. Elliot Barling took a quick sideline self-pass before the defence had organised themselves, squaring to van Rooyen, who needed no further invitation to let the ball roll across his body and fire low and hard onto the backboard on the stroke of half-time.
The visitors started the second period with the same intensity as the first and this time it paid dividends. A foray down the right had Hertford on their heels and when the ball was sent into the danger area, Pledger looked to have it covered, only for the recovering Michael Branford to mis-control the ball, deflecting it over the sliding goalkeeper and into his own net to remove any opportunity of a clean sheet.
Fortunately Branford was not long in making amends. A quickly taken free hit at the other end by Dunnett gave him the chance to drive around the back of the Stortford defence and pull back for Branford to finish first time, despite the best efforts of a defender on the line to restore the four goal advantage.
Now dominating the midfield, and with a tiring opposition, Hertford used their time on the ball to execute some piercing forward passes. Downer threaded it through to van Rooyen, who beat his man, finishing with aplomb beyond the keeper's stick from the top of the circle, joining Norman in the 20-goal club.
van Rooyen completed his hat-trick from a set piece penalty corner, flicking in to the net at the end of a clever move to create space in the D.
Another penalty corner saw Norman give the scoreline some gloss, completing another slick routine with the ball ending up high in the net.
Hertford will be back in action at the Simon Balle ground on February 24th when they host fifth placed Broxbourne in a local derby.
Hertford: Ian Pledger; Elliot Barling, Simon Halfacre, Ben Tootell, Jamie O'Sullivan; Ian Dunnett, Nick Downer, Michael Branford; Ben Van Rooyen, Darren Norman, Ciaran Begg. Subs: Arthur Twyning, Luke Rawlinson.