Comrades go five points clear

Berkhamsted 3-2 Bletchley Town

By Grant Hastie

Berkhamsted made hard work of it, but eventually did enough to notch a double to stay on top of the league on Saturday, with James Armstrong netting twice and Lawrence Bunker getting the winner.

Recent signing from Pitstone and Ivinghoe, Mitchell Hamilton got his first start for Berkhamsted in the only change from the side that won at MK Wanderers last week.

Steve Hawes picked up an early booking for Berko for a foul, but happily it was their only card of the afternoon. Lee Jones had the first real chance when he capitalised on a Luke Bartlett stumble but shot wide of Graeme Milner.

Against the run of play, Pete MacAnespie put the visitors’ in front after half an hour, when he pounced on a weak defensive header and raced on to net. When home skipper Antony Beamish and Jones battled for possession, Jones got himself sent off with a stupid right hook. Daniel Smith soon got a yellow card for an elbow, as despite being ahead, Bletchley lost their discipline. To cap it all, 5 minutes later they tripped Armstrong in the penalty area. Bletchley’s Craig Farmer got a hand to Armstrong’s spot kick but could not prevent the striker netting his 31st goal of the season.

Adam Mead came on to add some much needed width early in the second half as Berko tried to exploit their extra man advantage. Carl Rivenberg was next in the book for charging down a free kick from less than 10 yards. Colin Wilson surprised Farmer and beat him with a 20 yard drive that came back off the upright as Berko looked for the leveller. Tony Burnett came on for Andy Chapman as Berko decided to add an extra forward. That inspired the Comrades to have their best spell of the match. Beamish headed over as did Bunker and Mead shot over the bar. Eventually the pressure told as Armstrong beat the offside trap and waltzed round Farmer to put the home side ahead at the canal end. Teenager, Craig Mortimer, a new signing from St. Albans City, then came on for his debut as Mick Vipond made the final substitution.

Woeful defending allowed MacAnespie to net a fine solo goal from the left to level the scores with quarter of an hour left. Burnett and Mead were now proving a handful on the wings, but too many crosses went beyond all of the home forwards. Lawrence Bunker took his tally into double figures since signing from Pitstone and Ivinghoe, as he bundled home the winner 10 minutes from time when an Armstrong corner was not cleared. Still Bletchley did not give up and Wilson had to kick off his own line at the railway end. Jim Carmichael was last to pick up a yellow card when he brought down Burnett, who had already gone past three men.

The win may not have been pretty, but it was vital as it stretched the Comrades lead at the top of the table from two points to five points, as second placed Wodson Park suffered a postponement and chief rivals Aston Clinton lost at Totternhoe.

Team: Milner; Wilson, Bartlett (Mead), Chapman (Burnett), Beamish, Hamilton (Mortimer), Gerrard, Hawes, Armstrong, Bunker, Rodrigoe. Subs not used: Ebi and Groves.

Player coach Steve Boad is available after suspension and Jamie Gavin may have recovered from a hamstring injury to add to Mick Vipond’s options for Saturday’s derby at home to Tring Corinthians. However, skipper Antony Beamish misses out as he has a one game ban.

On Tuesday 30th Berkhamsted are at home to Padbury United ko 7:45pm hoping to get a win against one of their title rivals at the third attempt this season. Padbury were the last team to beat Berkhamsted in a league game, way back in August.

Berkhamsted’s reserves are at Old Bradwell United on Saturday.

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