Stags stampeded by surging Stortford
By Ian Dunnett
Hertford Men’s 1st team had a tough outing against table topping Bishops Stortford on Saturday, being beaten by six goals to one.
Hertford made five changes from the previous week, with Ian Pledger making his second appearance of the season in goal in place of Tom Smith. Player-coach Nick Downer returned in midfield, along with Adrian Fileczki following a rib injury, as Alec Short and James Rollins missed out, with strike pairing Darren Norman and Scott Apps replacing Ewen MacPherson and Arthur Twyning.
The hosts were much more used to the recently resurfaced and very lively Stortford pitch, putting the visitors under pressure from the early minutes. When skipper Ian Dunnett mis-controlled a ball, his poor touch gave away possession and a penalty corner. It brought the very best of Pledger, reaching with a outstretched stick low to his right to deflect the drama-flicked effort around the post.
But the home side kept the pressure up, and despite Hertford growing into the game, it was the home side that took the lead. The visitors thought they had done well enough to close down the shooting angle when a Stortford forward worked his way into the left of the circle, but his reverse stick shot somehow looped over the sliding keeper, catching so much top spin when it bounced that it deceived the recovering defender on the line.
Stortford continued to be the main attacking force, with Hertford reduced to playing on the break. Good harrying by the forwards turned over possession high up the pitch, but with the keeper stricken, Norman’s well struck shot form the top of the D could only find the left upright.
The miss was cruelly punished as two set-pieces tripled the advantage before half time. The first penalty corner was drag-flicked hard and low, finding the corner, with a second only moments after going the other way for a neatly timed deflection onto the backboard, making the half time score 3-0.
Whatever was said by Hertford at half time didn’t have the desired effect as they conceded almost directly the restart.
Using the pace of the pitch, Stortford moved the ball laterally, creating space for an on-rushing full-back on the left hand side to carry the ball into the D and sling a shot-cum-cross into the goalmouth. Pledger did well to fend off the first, but the rebound fell kindly for a waiting toward to gather and push the ball over the line.
The Stags had to adjust further when Ben Tootell incurred a shoulder injury while executing an aerial, with Ian Dunnett moving to centre back.
Despite the score line, Hertford were still playing their part, but the forays forward rarely threatened the goal.
Another set piece made it five-nil, once more Jame O’Sullivan’s ankles were the target of a fizzing, dipping drag-flick, and Hertford were completely outnumbered for a sixth where two waiting forwards seemed to be allowed three attempts to score without a tackle going in, despite Pledger’s best efforts.
At six-nil Hertford didn’t give and eventually earned a consolation. Good stick work from Apps earned a penalty corner, with Downer putting good disguise on his effort to notch up his sixth of the season.
The encounter finished six-one, cementing Stortford’s grip on the top of the table.
Hertford - still fourth in the division - finish their league season next Saturday when they host Witham, where they’ll be looking to extend their nine game unbeaten run at home.
Hertford - Ian Pledger; Elliot Barling, Simon Halfacre, Ben Tootell, Jamie O’Sullivan; Ian Dunnett, Mike Branford, Nick Downer; Scott Apps, Darren Norman, Luke Rawlinson. Subs - Adrian Fileczki, Archie Akers.