Berko denied at the death for second week running

Jonathan Lacey scored Berko's lone goal against Bedford Town on Saturday. (File picture by Ray Canham)
Jonathan Lacey scored Berko's lone goal against Bedford Town on Saturday. (File picture by Ray Canham)

For the second week running Berkhamsted FC were cruelly beaten in injury time as visitors Bedford Town grabbed a 2-1 victory.

Berko boss Steve Bateman had to reshuffle his side for this battle of two playoff contenders. Skipper Danny Murphy, Connor Toomey and Antonis Vasiliou were all unavailable, so 16-year-old Martyn Box, from Barnet, made his debut at left-back, James Towell was moved to sweeper and Karl Stevenson came in at right-back.

Bedford started the brighter and went close through Callum Donnelly and James Hall.

Home keeper Xavi Comas-Leon, who won the man of the match award, made some quality saves, diving well to hold the ball in mid-air from Donnelly.

The recalled Harry Scott had to come off on the half-hour for Berko, giving Ibrahima Diawara his debut.

Bedford were on top, showing more quality in midfield than any side to visit Broadwater this term. But it was The Comrades who took the lead in first-half injury time. Matt Bateman’s headed flick released Jonathan Lacey and he ran on goal before striking a neat, low shot past the exposed Bedford keeper.

Berko did better in the second period and Ryan Kinnane came forward to blast a 20-yard shot just over.

Town began to fall into the offside trap and got frustrated, however, they made it 1-1 on 62 minutes when James Peters was free at the back post to score.

Berko were then put under pressure and Peters latched onto a half clearance but shot wide. Substitute Mason Watkins-Clarke also had a good shot saved for Bedford.

The hosts had to rejig their side again when Stevenson suffered a fractured cheek bone. Andrew Ofuso and Louis Austin came on but neither could create any chances.

Berko’s biggest home crowd of the season looked like seeing their side hang on for a point but Dan Walker’s 92nd-minute deflected shot saw Bedford snatch the win.

They were good value for the result that sent them above their hosts in the table to sixth, one spot from the playoffs, while Berko slip to eighth in the Southern League Division One Central standings.

Berko are away at 12th-placed Cambridge City this Saturday, then have a rematch away at Bedford Town next Tuesday night, March 12.

These two games will have a big bearing on whether Berko can make for the play offs. Berko now have Stevenson, Ashly Morrissey and Dan Jones on the long-term injury list as well as a few availability issues.