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First team report
Tue 21st Mar 2017
Herts Charity Shield Cup Final
Berkhamsted 3-2 TAFC First team TAFC goals: Christopher Stapleton (2)
FOOTBALL GODS FAIL TO SHINE ON US
(Played at Hemel Hempstead's Ground)
With a minute of normal time left and holding a precious 2-1 lead we looked like we would be lifting the Herts Charity Shield for the fourth time in our history. But a twist of cruel fate saw the Cup slip from our fingers as Berko grabbed two late goals.
It was a bitter blow to the lads who had worked so hard and showed tremendous spirit to overturn a soft early goal with two goals from live wire Chris Stapleton. Even missing a penalty didn't seem to dampen our spirits until those late fatefully minutes.
Played at Hemel's ground, which had a superb playing surface despite all the wear and tear it must have endured, we were without influential midfielder Luke Dunstan who was suspended for the game and forward Jack Read who was still away on his hols. But we were able to call on the services of Kieran Turner who clocked up his 16th game for us this season.
Our opponents started strongly and Jack Hopwood was called upon after only five minutes to come out and block a shot from Matt Bateman. But our let off only lasted four minutes following the award of a free kick on the right hand edge of our area. Up stepped full back Adam Mead to take us by surprise and fire his kick inside the near post with presumably our defence expecting the ball to be lofted to the far post. In any event it was not the start we wanted. Score 0-1.
We did respond with a good flowing move that resulted in Chris Stapleton shooting over but Stapes went closer soon afterwards on the quarter hour mark when from a Tommy Twelves cross he forced the keeper to get down quickly and save his header by the post. A back pass that fell short could have proved disastrous but Jack Hopwood make a good save to deny Alex Campana.
Both teams looked dangerous on the break with Berko deploying two wide men in Alex Campana and Josh Chamberlain either side of their tall centre forward Matt Bateman. They were a threat from crosses and set pieces, especially when their big centre back Ed Canham moved forward, but our defenders and Hoppy did well to deal with the danger.
We were no slouches going forward ourselves and Lee Stobbs cross nearly lead to an equaliser with Chris Stapleton's subsequent shot taking a big deflection, but despite being wrong footed keeper James Weatherill stuck out a hand to make a superb instinctive save.
The keeper did less well a few minutes later when he spilled Kieran Turner's free kick but his defence came to the rescue to block Chris Stapleton's shot. From the corner Dave O'Connor headed powerfully over. Following a good spell we were awarded a penalty in the 22nd minute when Ed Canham handled the ball. Up stepped Chris Stapleton but his well struck spot kick was magnificently saved Weatherill, the current Aylesbury FC number 1 who was making his debut for Berko.
Clearly buoyed by this let off Berko pushed forward with Dan Steaman making a great block to deny Lewis and Campana fizzing over a super ball across our area that went unclaimed. Then Campana picked out Lewis with a fine cross but the former Sun Sports player's header missed the target. Later a Matt Bateman header from a free kick was clutched by Hoppy and then Josh Chamberlain smashed a vicious shot that Hoppy brilliantly turned away. Hoppy was then called into action to catch a header from Canham from the follow up corner.
But it was far from being one way traffic as we had our moments with Chris Vardy heading Stapes cross just wide of the far post. Then following a bit of pressure we deservedly equalised in the 35th minute. Chris Vardy's shot was blocked on the line but Stapes from a prone position was able to stab the ball home to make up for his missed penalty. Score 1-1.
There was no more meaningful action as we reached the break with the Final nicely balanced. HT Score 1-1.
We started the second half better than we did the first with Lee Stobbs putting an early effort over then he produced two top quality crosses that the Berko defence did well to clear. Tommy Twelves fired an opportunity wide and then Jack Seaton got on the end of a free kick which Canham managed to cut off at the near post.
But any relief felt by Berko at this narrow escape was short lived as from the resulting corner Chris Stapleton out leapt the much taller defenders to head home his second of the match and put us in front in the 63rd minute. I think its fair to say that Stapes is not the tallest of players but he has a great leap and is really good in the air. Score 2-1.
Berko made some changes and we brought on Seb Smith for the injured Dave O'Connor and Sam Joliffe for George Carbery. Hoppy made a good save from Chamberlain as our opponents pushed forward desperately looking for an equaliser. That left them vulnerable to counter attacks and we looked dangerous on the break.
We were holding firm as Berko seemed to run out of ideas as the clock ticked down. With two minutes of normal time left we had a golden opportunity to clinch the tie when Kieran Turner shot past the keeper but a defender did well to read the situation to get back and prevent a certain goal. As so often in football that proved to be the turning point as a minute later our opponents equalised.
From the bye line Chamberlain managed to whip over a super cross that Matt Bateman converted. Score 2-2. If that was a big blow we suffered a monumental one three minutes later when a clearance struck a Berko player and fell nicely for Chamberlain. The Hayes and Yeading player capped his second appearance for Berko this season by cracking the ball into the far corner to win the Cup for his team. FT Score 2-3.
An entertaining Cup Final in front of a decent crowd and congratulations to Berko who kept going right to the end to lift this trophy for the first time. For us it was bitterly disappointing to be so close to winning but to fall just short in the last few minutes and finish losing finalists for the second year running. On the positive side we showed a lot of character to come back from conceding an early goal and on another day the outcome may have been different.
But we have no time to wallow in self pity as we can still finish 4th in the table and we are still in the St Marys Cup so we have lots to play for starting with a visit to Edgware Town on Saturday.
TA: 1 Jack Hopwood 2 Tommy Twelves 3 Jack Seaton 4 Ryan Sturges 5 Dan Steadman (Capt) 6 Dave O'Connor (14 Seb Smith 69) 7 George Carbery (16 Sam Joliffe 75) 8 Lee Stobbs 9 Chris Vardy 10 Kieran Turner 11 Chris Stapleton. Subs not used: 12 Chris Mason 15 Ben Alcock
B: 1 James Weatherill 2 Adam Mead 3 Dan Weeks 4 Steve Hawes (Capt) (14 Jack Stevens 82) 5 Ed Canham 6 Lewis Rodigoe 7 Alex Campana 8 Max Farrelly (15 Sam Bateman 82) 9 Matt Bateman 10 Ashley Lewis (12 Ashton Campbell 65) 11 Josh Camberlain. Subs not used: 16 Tom Carter 17 Gerado Smalldone.
TA: Chris Stapleton (35, 63)
B: Adam Mead (9), Matt Bateman (89), Josh Chamberlain (90+2)