Two goals in the first 10 minutes from Josh Chamberlain helped Berkhamsted FC to a solid 3-1 victory over Bedworth United on a soaking wet day at their Broadwater home on Saturday.
After playing well in a midweek friendly, Darren Locke came in for Steve Hatch at the back for Berko, while Alex Taylor started in midfield with Saul Williams still not fully recovered from a knock he sustained in the FA Trophy exit to Hornchurch last Saturday.
Chamberlain set Berko on their way early. Danny Murphy pinged a ball from left-back to Jonathan Lacey on the right wing, who found Lewis Toomey. His shot was parried by United keeper Dan Crane but Chamberlain was on hand to stroke the ball home from 15 yards.
Minutes later Toomey crossed to an unmarked Chamberlain to finish from six yards to make it 2-0.
A shot on the turn from Alex Troke and a Dan Preston shot saved indicated Bedworth were not going to roll over, despite the early goals.
However, Berko were good value for their half-time lead.
After the break, Lacey hit a low shot past the base of the post, before Locke had to retire early, Max Farrelly dropping back from midfield to play alongside Ryan Kinnane.
New signing from Northwood Matt Cooper came off the bench into midfield for The Comrades and Erin Amu also came on as Berko looked comfortable.
Kinnane headed powerfully from a Lacey corner and the ball rebounded off Crane’s chest without him having time to move, but the ball went to a defender and was cleared.
United put up a better showing as the second-half progressed and looked to be getting back into the match.
Luke Rowe forced a fine save from a 25-yard shot that acted as a warning.
But United’s hopes were killed by a third goal in the 85th minute when Dan Akubuine sent Lacey free on the right and his cross was volleyed in by Toomey.
Late on, Rowe hit a wonderful consolation goal for United with a superb long-range strike that gave Berko keeper Xavi Comas no chance.
Fellow title hopefuls Corby Town also won on Saturday, so Berko remain in second place in the Southern League Division One Central table, only two points adrift.
Last night (Tuesday) as the Gazette was going to press Berko were due to enter the Herts Senior Cup away at Royston Town, who now boast The Comrades’ top scorer from last term Matt Bateman among their ranks.
On Saturday Berko return to league action with a trip to 11th-ranked Biggleswade.