Weather doesn’t dampen entertaining encounter
By Ian Dunnett
Summer Stags opened their off-season with a thoroughly entertaining 3-3 draw with Bishop Stortford on Monday, three times coming from behind.
With the rain unrelenting for the entire match the Broxbourne pitch afforded a high tempo to the contest. Stags controlled early proceedings, keeping the ball under control and patiently waiting for openings to feed the three ever-willing runners up front.
Stortford - whose first team play two divisions higher than Hertford’s - had some high quality players on the pitch, who adjusted to the Stags’ threats and began pulling some strings in midfield.
An early short corner gave Stortford the lead. Elliot Barling did well to close down the first attempted drag-flick, but only at the expense of another set piece. This time the striker managed to get his shot away, finding a gap at Ian Pledger’s right post.
Hertford got a well deserved leveller when James Rollins went on a mazy run and found Arthur Twyning in the circle. Twyning used excellent skill to drive around the back of the defence, drawing out the goalie and pulling the ball back for Archie Akers to sweep onto the backboard.
At 1-1 the two goalkeepers took centre stage. At one end Russ Adlam unleashed a bullet tomahawk strike from the top of the D which was artfully turned around the post by the young goalie’s stick, and then another penalty corner at the other end of the pitch saw Pledger stretch out a left leg when he looked like he was beaten by another drag-flicked effort, with the ball spiralling away from danger.
The Stags were enjoying the end-to-end attacking flow, but did so a little too much, and again conceded the lead just before half time. Adam Price dribbled out of defence, but when possession was lost it left an unmarked Stortford forward free at the top of the D. He had time to spin and fire a reverse stick strike hard and low into the opposite corner.
The second half continued at the same leg-sapping tempo. Some excellent harrying in midfield from Marcus Stirling turned over possession, threading the ball through to put Luke Rawlinson in the clear, calmly slotting his shot under the sliding net-minder to restore parity.
As legs tired more space opened up in midfield, creating a host of chances at both ends. Pledger was kept busy, palming away one effort and then booting another into the stratosphere to avoid danger. Stags could have taken the lead when a well worked short corner saw Alec Short feed Rollins on the penalty spot, but the teenager’s shot was pushed wide.
Stortford regained the lead with 15 minutes to play as their second goal scorer weaved his way through a crowded circle following an attacking free hit, finishing with another excellent reverse stick effort, finding the side netting from a narrow angle.
Not to be outdone Hertford summoned the energy to respond one final time. Committing men forward, Price collected the ball 25 yards from goal, zipping a pass into the goalmouth. When a Stortford defender mis-controlled the ball span behind him and Akers was once more on hand finish from close range.
Both sides were more happy with the quality and style of the game than the result, but if this is a signal of the summer season ahead you should all get yourselves down to Broxbourne for some free entertainment.
Hertford: Ian Pledger; James Ware, Elliot Barling, Adam Price, James Rollins; Ian Dunnett, Russ Adlam, Marcus Stirling; Archie Akers, Luke Rawlinson, Arthur Twyning. Subs: Alec Short, Renn Makan, Kris Prentice