The tension of a penalty shoot-out and the abysmal weather conditions did not stop Berkhamsted Raiders Under-14 Blues reaching the next round of the Herts County Cup at the weekend.
Despite dominating much of the game in driving rain,and having led 2-1 and 3-2 in the second-half, Raiders were held 3-3 by Oaklands Wolves. However, when the tie went to penalties, Berko showed their character by scoring all four of their kicks.
Keeper Cameron Edmonds saved a penalty and another was fired over the bar as they won the shoot-out 4-1, thanks to confidently-struck spot-kicks from Jude James, Will Smooker, Tom Foley and Oli Pitblado.
Raiders’ boss Darren Heneghan said: “We knew we should have won the game in normal time, and the fact we had boys volunteering to take penalties speaks volumes about the spirit and maturity in this squad.”
Wolves took an early lead but Raiders levelled in the 16th minute when James played a fine pass into the space behind a full-back and Paddy Read raced onto it to drill a low shot into the corner.
The Wolves keeper then started to excel, clawing away a snap-shot from Finnlee Ferguson before twice taking off to tip goal-bound efforts from Smooker over the bar.
Berko went ahead in the 41st minute when Luke Mathison burst forward from midfield and thumped a shot into the bottom corner.
Wolves levelled eight minutes later but it was Raiders who continued to create the best chances, and when Smooker finally found a way to beat the keeper, his shot came back off the post.
Foley’s fierce shot from the edge of the box put Raiders 3-2 ahead in the 54th minute but Wolves equalised again with seven minutes left.
Raiders camped in the visitors’ half in the closing stages and although they couldn’t grab a winner, they showed their mettle in the shoot-out.