Title rivals Welwyn Garden City have now leapt over Berkhamsted to the top of the table after a crushing win over The Comrades on Saturday – just three days after they dumped Berko out of the cup.
Welwyn rushed into a 4-0 lead within half an hour, which was a huge disappointment in front of 231 fans at Broadwater, Berko’s biggest league attendance of the season.
It was Berko’s first home defeat of their Spartan South Midland League campaign. They are now two points behind Welwyn and have played three more games than their rivals.
The two sides had a close Herts Charity Shield semi -final in midweek (see later), but both sides were much-changed on Saturday. Welwyn made five changes and Berko three, including Matt Bateman starting on his return after signing back from Leverstock Green and Jack Pattison slotting in at right-back as Ashley Morrissey and Josh Chamberlain had both not recovered from knocks in the cup tie.
Dan Bond opened the scoring for City on 12 minuted after a corner was not dealt with.
Ash Kersey got the second, running from the halfway line to outpace the defence before slotting home on 20 minutes.
Paul Marks then chipped in with a brace in the next 10 minutes as Welwyn ran riot.
At half-time Berko brought on Dan Jones and Sean Coughlan and later gave a debut to Ollie Cox. While they enjoyed more possession, they did not carve out the chances they needed to trouble Charlie May in the visitors’ goal.
The pace of Coughlan and Ashton Campbell got them to the bylines, but the Welwyn centre backs and May snuffed out many of the crosses.
Berko: Carl Tasker, Pattison, Alex Campana, Steve Hawes, Jon Munday (Cox), Adam Mead, Max Farrelly (Jones), Ben Bateman, Campbell, Adiel Mannion (Coughlan), Bateman. Subs not used: Frankie Jowle, Jack Stevens.
Berko were due to have a weekend off this Saturday as their originally scheduled opponents Leighton Town are in FA Vase action, however the schedule-makers have now made a change and The Comrades will now be playing at xxth-ranked Stotfold instead.
There will then be a chance for revenge in the league against Welwyn – playing them for the third time in 14 days – on Wednesday, February 14, where there will be no love lost on Valentine’s night.
n Berko relinquished their grip on the Herts Charity Shield they were defending, going out after extra time in the semi-final on Wednesday night in an entertaining end-to-end affair .
Morrissey started brightly for visitors Berko and cut in from the left to shoot after receiving a pass from Mead. At the other end the home fans were baying for a penalty after a challenge by Munday, but the referee was not swayed. Tasker also had to come out of goal to clear with his head.
Berko’s breakthrough came midway through the first-half when Mannion fed Campbell and Morrissey cut in and hit an unstoppable shot past May to put Berko 1-0 ahead.
Mead nearly doubled the lead when he tried an audacious chip from the halfway line that just went wide.
But it was City that got the next goal a few minutes later when Tasker pulled off a save at the front post but a deep cross to the back stick was headed in by Charlie Joy from close range for the equaliser.
Mead restored the Berko lead towards the end of the first-half with a decent strike for his 19th goal of the season.
Midway through the second period, City drew level again with recent signee from Biggleswade United Nick Elliott’s shot taking a deflection off a defender’s foot before looping in at the near post.
The hosts began to get on top in midfield and Chamberlain got injured so Berko boss Steve Bateman had to reshuffle the side, the impressive Morrissey departing for Sean Coughlan for the latter’s first game in two months.
Tasker had to produce a fine double save to preserve the scoreline at 2-2 and take the game into extra time.
The league’s and Welwyn’s top scorer Jon Clements was delayed getting to the game and he came on after 90 minutes. He scored five minutes into extra time, running from the halfway line and racing past the Berko defence.
But Berko made it 3-3 within a flash when Campbell volleyed home left-footed to finish a fine move.
Clements wasn’t finished, though, and he headed in from a corner to make it 4-3 early in the second-half of extra-time.
A penalty shootout nearly arrived when Coughlan hit the bar for Berko but home keeper May just held the shot from the rebound as the final whistle went.
Welwyn will play Colney Heath in the final at Hemel Hempstead later this month.
Berko: Tasker, Campana, Chamberlain (Jowle), Hawes (Stevens), Munday, Farrelly, Mead, Jones, Campbell, Mannion, Morrissey (Coughlan). Subs not used: Pattison, Ashley Lewis.