Biggleswade United were the first to admit that good fortune was their 12th man at Berkhamsted on Saturday as they came away with a 2-0 win despite their hosts having the greater crop of chances.
Denied by the woodwork, a man of the match performance from young keeper Robbie Ponting and a hard working all round team performance, Berko can feel aggrieved that they didn’t at least take a share of the points. They were also out to impress their new manager, Steve Bateman taking over two weeks ago but due to the weather had yet to see the calibre of players at his disposal.
The opening exchanges saw both sides set out their intentions. United played controlled football through the middle of the park whereas their opponents took full advantage of their impressive front man Ashley Lewis who with the pace of strike partner, Ashton Campbell looked dangerous on the counter.
However, it was United’s Charisma Agyemang that broke the deadlock in the 28th minute. Intricate passing around the edge of the Berko area finished with Kane Farrell slipping the ball through to Agyemang and the youngster tucked the ball in to the far corner past keeper Carl Tasker for 1-0.
The hosts came back with a vengeance and an equaliser looked a certainty when a cross from Campbell found Dan Jones unmarked at the far post but he headed over much to the astonishment of teammates and crowd.
Both sides were now playing some hugely attractive football interspersed with chances at each end. United’s flankmen, Charlie Joy and Jaiden Irish, were constant threats to the Berko defence and Agyemang gave the central defenders plenty to think about.
At the opposite end Biggleswade’s central duo of Lee Bilcock and Martin Russell had to be on their mettle to deal with Lewis and a series of corners had United pinned back in their area with three goalline clearances and a superb reflex save from Ponting denying their hosts.
In the 39th minute a great counter attack from United saw them almost double their lead. Gareth Hunt broke up a Berko attack deep in his own half and an interchange of six passes between Matt Cooper, Farrell and Irish ended with Hunt firing a shot from 18 yards the fizzed over Tasker’s crossbar.
Berko came out with a fire in their bellies in the second half and within a minute of the restart Lewis had hit the upright and Ponting dived bravely at Jones’ feet. United seemed to struggle to maintain the first half momentum in the middle of the park and Berko exploited it to the full and for the first fifteen minutes United were, for the most part, confined in their own half.
But United’s organisation and resolve held out under the pressure and they slowly got themselves back in to the game. Fresh legs saw Under 23 player, Khy Cyrus replace the tiring Hunt and a shuffle in the pack saw Irish take up a more central position.
And it was Irish that initiated United’s first serious attack on Tasker’s goal in the 68th minute. A long throw from Ponting found Irish who played wide to Farrell and his cross fell to Joy who was brought down unceremoniously on the edge of the penalty area. Farrell’s resulting free kick was collected easily by Tasker.
Three minutes later Joy was the dangerman once more. A cross field pass from James Cooper saw Berko at full stretch and Joy collected on the bye line and fired low but the ball was cleared off the line. Substitute, Alix Girdlestone replaced the hard working Kevin Owusu for the final fifteen minutes and the 20 year old wriggled his way through two defenders to set up Joy once more but his effort was palmed away by Tasker.
Those three good chances were soon forgotten as Berko hit back with a vengeance. Further attempts to draw level went begging as United found themselves under another a barrage of attacks by the home side. Trying his luck from distance, substitute, Callum Wilson- McCloughlin hit a blistering shot that flew inches over Ponting’s crossbar and Lewis again cut in from the left but his effort was cleared away by Bilcock.
In the 83rd minute James Cooper sent Cyrus down the flank from where he tried to flick the ball around his marker but the ball struck the arm of the Berko defender in full view of the assistant referee who signalled for a penalty.
After discussion between the match officials the ball was placed on the spot and despite lengthy protestations by the Berko players, Matt Cooper remained focussed and fired the ball in to the bottom corner.
Ashley Grinham replaced Agyemang to increase United’s strength at the back and the hosts but the threat of a turnaround seemed to peter out as the final minutes ticked away.
The 2-0 win made it three on the bounce for Cristian Colas’ side and they climb to eighth in the table with games still in hand on many of those above them. They host Broxbourne Borough on Tuesday.
United’s Under 23’s faced leaders, Herford Town at Second Meadow on Saturday but went down 1-3 despite playing the better football of the two sides. The youngsters lacked the killer punch in front of goal and as a result suffered their first defeat in eight games – that was also to Hertford Town in October. United’s goal came from new signing Ali Richardson.