Berkhamsted registered their eighth consecutive league win when hosting London Tigers on Saturday, despite missing their usual powerful strike duo up front.
The 2-1 victory took Berko three points clear at the top the Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division from second-placed Welwyn Garden City, who have a game in hand, but they dropped a couple of points against Leverstock Green on Saturday (see below).
Both teams are still unbeaten in the league this season so a ding-dong battle looks likely.
Berko had many chances to seal the points in the opening quarter of an hour of Saturday’s game at Broadwater.
However, they were missing the unavailable in-form strike force of Stacey Field and Sean Coughlan, so the chances went begging.
It was Ashton Campbell who finally broke the deadlock by heading home a Ben Bateman cross in the 16th minute to put the Comrades ahead at the canal end.
There was plenty of possession for Berko and it was a surprise when Tigers equalised.
An overhead kick from Linor Krysniqi rattled the junction of bar and post and the loose ball fell to Paulo Alves, who pounced to fire home the leveller.
Home skipper Jon Munday headed against the post as Berko looked to regain the lead.
Tigers committed several fouls to try to stop the Berko wingers getting behind them, picking up three yellow cards.
A shot from Ashley Morrissey was kicked off the goalline as Berko pressed forward.
Josh Chamberlain, who has been suffering from a back injury, made his comeback replacing Bateman in the second-half.
After the interval, the visiting defence hit the panic button, a couple of times hoofing the ball into orbit and back into their own danger area.
One such incident led to the next goal. When the ball returned to the six-yard box, London keeper Luciano Martines was caught by the referee pushing a Berko player near the goalline to concede a penalty.
Dan Jones duly stepped up to put the ball in the corner of the net from the spot-kick to put Berko back in front in the 69th minute to the delight of the young Comrades fans behind the goal. Krysniqi tried another overhead kick but this time the ball cleared the bar at the canal end.
Max Farrelly and Frankie Jowle came off the bench for Berko to ensure the lead was kept to the final whistle.
Berko’s best chance in the final 20 minutes fell to Munday when a pin-point Chamberlain cross was met by a firm header that beat the keeper, but just went the wrong side of the far upright.
The only late drama was the visitor’s centre back Samyar Pangi getting a red card in the fifth minute of stoppage time for remarks made to the referee.
Berko: Tasker, Mead, Weeks, Ben Bateman (Chamberlain), Munday, Hawes, Campana, Jones (Farrelly),Blunden, Campbell (Jowle), Morrissey. Subs not used: Karoushi and Kabba.
Berko now start a difficult run of five consecutive away games.
Last night (Tuesday) they were due to take on Colney Heath in the Herts Senior Cup and then they visit Crawley Green at Barton Rovers’ ground this Saturday.
There is then a repeat of last season’s Herts Charity Shield final next Tuesday, November 7, when holders Berko travel to runners-up Tring Ahletic, this time at the quarter-final stage.
In other club news, Berko’s development team went down 4-2 at Hoddesdon Town at the weekend. Matt Lee and Tommee Seaton got the Berko goals.
The under-14s had a 1-1 draw at home to Harrow All Stars.
This Saturday Berko’s development side entertain Risborough Rangers while on Sunday the under-14s host Whetstone Wanderers in the Watford Friendly League.