Comrades win title at first attempt

Kent Athletic 1-4 Berkhamsted

by Grant Hastie

Berkhamsted’s 11th consecutive league win landed them the Division Two title in style in Luton on Saturday to set the champagne corks popping.

Mick Vipond was able to name an unchanged side after winning 3-0 at their closest challengers Aston Clinton in midweek. Any title nerves were soon settled as Lawrence Bunker put the visitors ahead in the 18th minute when his low shot burst through the net after a neat run into the penalty area from Mitchell Hamilton.

Paul Edwards was kept very busy making saves in the home goal throughout the first half. His saves included a Bunker header after a Lee Groves cross was nodded back across goal by Simon Carmichael. However, he had no chance when Bunker headed home at the back post from an inch perfect inviting cross by James Armstrong in the 33rd minute.

Berko thought they were going into the interval 3-0 up for a while, as Bunker beat two men in the area and shot on target past Edwards and with the ball already going for goal Armstrong caught it up to make sure. The referee awarded the goal initially and there was no offside flag, but after protests from the home side the referee consulted his assistant and chalked off the goal, leaving Armstrong wishing he had left the ball to go in unaided.

Criag Hawkes put in a header that Graeme Milner saved. Armstrong shot past the post from a Luke Bartlett cross and Edwards conceded a corner from a Bunker header on the end of an Ed Gerrard cross. Simon Carmichael headed a Hamilton cross wide. However, Pat O’Neill made a game of it when he came up from centre half to head a cross into the net to make it 2-1.

That prompted the Comrades to go off and attack again. Tony Burnett headed over from a Hamilton cross and Armstrong rounded the keeper to win a corner. Bunker headed wide from a Hamilton free kick. Steve Hawes settled the points with a tremendous 25 yard drive that beat Edwards all ends up to make it 3-1 after Hamilton squared the ball into his path.

Berko made a triple substitution so more players could join in the title celebrations. They were rewarded with a late penalty after Bunker brought the ball down well and O’Neill tripped him. It was hat trick time for Bunker who took the kick himself. He has got onto the scoresheet in every game that he has played since signing for the Comrades.

Understandably it took a while for Mick Vipond to shape the team of a new club that only started last summer but Berkhamsted have got stronger, adding players as the season progressed and have not lost a league match since August and in recent weeks have convincingly beaten all their title rivals to earn promotion. Next season they will be in division 1 playing the likes of Welwyn Garden City, and have local derbies to look forward to with Amersham Town and Kings Langley.

Team: Milner; Groves (Hattan), Bartlett (Rodrigoe), J Carmichael, S Carmichael, Hamilton, Hawes (Beamish), Gerrard, Armstrong, Bunker, Burnett. Subs not used: Boad and Mead.

Goals from Darren Lewis and Sukure Ebi at Broadwater gave Berko’s reserve side a winning end to the season although Sun Postal Sports pulled one back late on to make the final score 2-1. The Comrades reserve side under Danny Johnson have ended the season strongly with 7 wins in their last 8 games.

On Saturday Berko wind up their season with a home league game against Caddington with a 3pm kick off at Broadwater. They are hoping for a big crowd to see the title presented and to thank all those who have worked so hard, to not just restore senior football to the town but also earning promotion in it first season.

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