St Margaretsbury 2 Berkhamsted 3
A DEPLETED Berkhamsted side continue to defy the odds, despite a crippling run of injuries and suspensions.
Three of the Comrades squad - Matt Wardle, Frankie Jowle and Adam Mead - were forced to withdraw on the morning of Saturday’s game following a sudden bout of illness, but that did not stop Mick Vipond’s side battling to the win at St Margaretsbury.
Goals from Jon Davies, Steve Hawes and Lawrence Bunker did the damage for Berko, who can be rightly proud of their performance in the absence of Wardle, Jowle and Mead, as well as a number of other first team regulars.
“It was a slow start because we were a bit fragile, but as the game went on we got stronger and stronger,” said Berko boss Vipond. “I was really pleased with the three points.
“We had our usual dramas – the squad was looking really strong on Saturday morning and then in came the first call so that didn’t help. But we’re hanging in there.”
The Comrades made a flying start to the game and took the lead as a Lawrence free-kick struck the defensive wall, allowing Davies to follow up and net his first goal since returning to the club from Leverstock Green.
The visitors were forced into a reshuffle soon afterwards, though, as skipper Simon Carmichael again succumbed to a recurring injury. Jordan Toomey moved from midfield into defence, with his cousin Josh Chamberlain coming on to fill the midfield slot.
Things went from bad to worse for Berko as St Margaretsbury equalised midway through the first half with a goal from Leigh Rose, but the Comrades showed good character to regain the lead.
Steve Hawes picked up the ball a full 30 yards from goal, before unleashing a rasping drive to send his side into half-time with a 2-1 advantage.
Berko began to take control of the proceedings after the break and added a third goal in the 66th minute as Bunker made it 3-1 with a good finish from Tyler Hatherley’s pass.
More drama followed as the hosts were reduced to ten men following a reckless two-footed challenge, before Hatherley was also dismissed as he picked up his second yellow card.
Deep into stoppage time, Ricky Light made it 3-2 from the penalty spot, but it was too little too late for St Margaretsbury and Berko held on for the deserved win.
The victory takes the Comrades up into eighth place in the table, just five points adrift of second-placed Levy Green with three games in hand.
Vipond says he is working hard on bringing in some new faces to strengthen the Comrades’ squad.