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First team report
Tue 11th Apr 2017
Spartan South Midlands Premier Division
Hertford Town 3-2 TAFC First team TAFC goals: Christopher Vardy, Jack Read (pen)
GREAT PERFORMANCE SPOILT BY LATE GOAL
Brazilian legend Pele described football as "jogo bonito" (the beautiful game) but he could have added that it can also be cruel as we discovered at Hertingfordbury Park on Tuesday night when we were denied a share of the spoils when our hosts scored the winning goal in 96th minute.
It was harsh and disappointing to concede so late in the game after we showed tremendous grit, determination and skill to come back from a two goal deficit to level the scores and look good for a point. Hertford Town were obviously delighted as it keeps the pressure on London Colney (who had some players watching the game) for the title. A draw would have probably ended Hertford's title challenge as LC would have just needed one win from their last 4 games to clinch it, now they need two wins to make sure although a win and a draw could still see them crowned as champions as they have a superior goal difference (65 to 51).
Despite the defeat we remain 5th in the table but we have used up our games in hand so we are still 4 points behind Wembley but have a clutch of clubs breathing down our necks. The season may be drawing to a close but it would be great to cap a fine campaign by finishing as high up in the table as possible so there is plenty still at stake in our last 5 games.
We had to re-jig our line up as we were missing Dave O'Connor, Jack Seaton and Seb Smith and skipper Dan Steadman had to be replaced at half time because he was unwell so we were somewhat short of centre backs. We also lost Luke Dunstan from midfield in the warm up due to a bad back so Sam Joliffe dropped back into defence and Tommy Twelves moved forward to midfield then he joined Sam at centre back after the break. We also brought in highly promising 18 year old Ben Johnson at right back and it was great to see Ollie Butler back in the fold.
Despite these changes we started well and dominated the first 15 minutes winning a flurry of free kicks and corners. Chris Stapleton struck a nice free kick that hit the target but didn't test the keeper and Chris Vardy nearly got on the end of a set piece. The home bench were far from happy with their start and the first hint of danger came in the 13th minute from a long throw and 2 minutes later they took the lead.
We had several opportunities to clear our lines then failed to deal with a ball down the middle giving the lethal Mark Summers a sight of goal and he didn't disappoint the home fans with a superb lob that beat Jack Hopwood. It was a terrific finish but from our point of view it was a poor goal to concede. Score 1-0.
Five minutes later Hertford doubled their score and we can have no complaints about it after three passes carved us open and Mark Summers was there again to confidently fire the ball past Hoppy. It was a well worked goal and took the Hertford number 9's tally to 17 goals. Score 2-0.
We were now facing an up hill struggle against the Premier Division's meanest defence who had conceded just 32 goals in 38 games but we refused to be cowed and we should have equalised in the 25th minute. Chris Vardy's long cross to the far post picked out the unmarked Ollie Butler who squared the ball to Chris Stapleton who unfortunately failed to get a clean contact and his shot hit Jack Read and was cleared off the line.
Hertford were always a danger on the break and when Dan Steadman stood on the ball we feared the worse but Tommy Wade shot wide. The home side were also a threat from long throws going close when Captain Ollie Sharman headed one just wide.
But it was far from one way traffic and we were causing the home defence plenty of problems and had a chance to reduce the arrears 5 minutes before the break when Chris Vardy's touch found Ryan Sturges whose shot was superbly saved by keeper Reece Buck.
Despite playing well we found ourselves 2 goals behind at the break and faced an uphill challenge in the second half. HT Score 2-0.
George Carbery replaced Dan Steadman at the start of the second half which unusually was the only substitute made in the game by both sides. Mark Summers had an early opportunity to put the game to bed after Tyler Hatherly found him with a fine pass but he shot weakly wide.
After that let off we responded in the best possible was with a goal in the 52nd minute. Tommy Twelves started the move when he swept a magnificent pass out to Chris Stapleton on the right wing. Stapes beat the full back for pace then cut inside and hit the far post with his shot. Fortunately Chris Vardy was on hand to fire in the rebound from a very acute angle that went in off the keeper. Score 2-1.
Two minutes later Ollie Butler (who although only playing his 3rd game in the First Team this season looked perfectly at home) chipped a lovely ball to Jack Read whose shot was awkwardly saved at the near post by the keeper. The game was evenly balanced and a minute before the hour mark we grabbed an equaliser. Chris Stapleton latched onto the ball after the keeper had miss kicked a back pass and found Chris Vardy. The defender in his haste clearly pushed Vards over from behind and the Referee awarded a penalty. As anyone involved with the club knows we have an extremely poor conversation rate from the penalty spot but Jack Read had no concerns dispatching the ball cleanly past the keeper. Score 2-2.
It was a terrific comeback by the players and it was now game on. Hertford raised their game as they saw their title hopes disappearing and Jack Hopwood made a good save from Tommy Wade at the near post, caught an easy lob from Mark Summers then made a fine save with his legs from the same player. Centre back Jay Lovell headed a corner over and Summers stabbed another effort well wide. Later Jack Hopwood had to come off his line to clear a long ball with Tommy Wade in hot pursuit.
There was a moment of controversy when the home side called for a penalty claiming one of our players had handled a long throw but the Referee awarded us a free kick explaining that our player had been pushed.
With the clock ticking down Hertford applied the pressure winning a succession of free kicks and corners and taking the opportunity to pumped the ball into our box. But we showed great resilience and defended well and managed to keep them at bay. We took the opportunity to break forward when we could and Chris Stapleton, who was outstanding, won a free kick just outside the area after being chopped down.
The Referee, who had a fine game, was still allowing play to continue and played over 7 minutes of injury time which seemed excessive. Unfortunately it backfired for us as Hertford grabbed an extremely late goal, when Jack Hopwood was unable to keep hold of a shot that bounced awkwardly in front of him and the ball was played back into the centre for Tommy Wade to head home for his 22nd goal of the season to keep his side's title hopes alive. FT Score 3-2.
A highly entertaining game in front of a crowd of nearly 200 and despite the defeat the players can feel rightly proud of their performance against formidably tough team who we pushed all the way. We can take a lot of credit from the game and now need to use this as a basis for our remaining games starting at Hadley on Thursday then against Berkhamsted at home on Saturday.
HT: 1 Reece Buck 2 Ollie Sharman (Capt) 3 Ed Taylor 4 Matt Thomson 5 Jay Lovell 6 Luke Foster 7 Ricky Light 8 Phil Lowen 9 Mark Summers 10 Tommy Wade 11 Tyler Hatherly. Subs not used: 12 Jonah Evans 14 Luke Pallett 15 Harry Crook 16 Joe Othen-Price 17 Davy Edmee.
TA: 1 Jack Hopwood 2 Tommy Twelves 3 Chris Mason 4 Ben Johnson 5 Dan Steadman (Capt) (14 George Carbery HT) 6 Ollie Butler 7 Ryan Sturges 8 Sam Joliffe 9 Chris Vardy 10 Jack Read 11 Chris Stapleton. Sub not used: 15 Stuart Stedman.