Ten-man Berkhamsted missed the chance to go to the top of the SSML Premier Division table as they slipped to a 1-0 defeat at home to fourth-placed Colney Heath.
The deciding goal came in the 20th minute when the visitors took a quick free kick – creating an overlap – and while Berko keeper Carl Tasker saved the first shot as a player had a free run deep into the penalty area, he was powerless to prevent Jay Welch putting the ball in the net from the rebound.
It was the first goal the Comrades had conceded in nearly six hours of football, and Josh Chamberlain tried to make amends with a powerful free-kick that went just over the bar. He also headed over when well placed.
The Berko side was disrupted when Steve Hawes had to come off with a hamstring injury and James Bent came on.
Colney looked better than Berko’s recent opposition and were threatening on the break, with Comrades defender Ed Canham getting booked for a block on a winger.
Soon afterwards, the referee’s failure to play advantage frustrated the home team when James Towell was free on goal and play was brought back for a free-kick. Tasker was eventually booked for continuing the protests.
There was a spell in the second half when the referee seemed to be struggling and Heath got three bookings, while Canham was sent off for a second yellow when he dived into a tackle by the corner flag. Substitute Bent also picked up a yellow for a foul.
Surprisingly, though, ten-man Berko were able to go on the attack and it looked as if they would at least equalise.
Connor Calcutt had a good shot blocked and Ricky Perks and his defence pulled off some good saves.
Aaron Usmani and Ashley Morrissey came on and added to the attacking options but the goal would not come and Colney held on for the three points with some determined defending.
Berko’s run of home games continues on Saturday when they entertain Oxhey Jets in the Premier Division, and they are at home again to Hertford Town in a league game on Tuesday.
Frankie Jowle will be back available for these games.
In the Suburban Shield on Saturday, Southall Reserves are at home to Berkhamsed Reserves.