Blues rise to uphill challenge.
Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division
Saturday 3rd December 2016
Crawley Green 1(1) Hertford Town 3(0)
(Wade 55’(pen), 62’, Lowen 88’)
In many respects this was one of the Blues most satisfying performances of the current campaign. Having produced some of their most fluent attacking football of the season so far, the Blues found themselves a goal behind at half-time despite having had the advantage of the not-inconsiderable slope on the Barton Rovers pitch, where their hosts ground-share.
Had the game followed the pattern of recent weeks the Blues might easily have found themselves going into the break with a substantial lead but a combination of outstanding goalkeeping and determined defending meant that, instead, they went in scoreless. Worse than that, they conceded a goal, totally against the run of play, to set up a very challenging second half task.
The Crawley custodian was certainly in a rich vein of form, making at least three excellent saves, two of which came moments apart to deny first Tommy Wade and then Phil Lowen, when both seemed certain to score. His fellow defenders were throwing themselves in front of everything that was thrown at them and enjoyed a few slices of luck when their deflections either flew narrowly over the bar or just wide of a post.
On another occasion, it was the underside of the bar that came to their rescue when Jay Lovell thundered in a shot from fully 25-yards which the keeper could only watch bounce down and be scrambled away to safety.
Apart from the failure to score and the one defensive lapse, this forty-five minute display was an exhilarating display full of good football and slick passing. The advantage of the slope had not been taken, though, and so the Blues were literally facing an uphill task in the second half. It speaks volumes for them that they responded as well as they did to it.
Matters had been made worse for the Blues when their central defender, Jack Bartlett, was forced out of the action with a hamstring tear just before the break but, in young Dan Palmer, the Blues had a more than able deputy and the line-up wasn’t weakened.
If the Blues were to come away with all three points, they were going to need to get back into the game quickly and the goal they were looking for was not long in coming. Ten minutes into the second period Adam Murad ran at the heart of the home defence and slipped the ball into the path of Phil Lowen who had made an intelligent run into space in the box. As he shaped to pull the ball across the goal, though, he was felled by a lunging attempt at a tackle and the referee had little option other than to award a penalty.
In the absence of regular penalty takers Ed Taylor and Tyler Hatherly, Tommy Wade – who had been brimming with confidence all match – took responsibility for the kick and unerringly sent the keeper the wrong way and planted the ball firmly into the back of the net.
The momentum was now with the visitors and only seven minutes later they took a well-deserved lead. Tommy Wade was again the scorer but this time it was Dan Ferrigno who was the provider. Dan cut through the Crawley back-line to take the ball to the dead-ball line before pulling it back for Tommy Wade to slam home from the edge of the six-yard box.
Brett O’Connor almost made it three when his free kick from just outside the box grazed the foot of a post, and Tommy Wade was denied a hat-trick with another good save from the home custodian.
Two minutes from the end of normal time a third – and deciding goal – was forthcoming, however, and this time it was Phil Lowen running onto Brett O’Connor’s through-ball to beat the off side trap and slot neatly past the advancing keeper.
Another three points to make up further ground on the runaway league-leaders London Colney but, with another mid-week without a game, the Blues must now wait until Saturday, when they host third-placed Cockfosters, before they can look to extend their run of good form.
Team:, Jayden Purdue, Ollie Sharman, Jay Lovell, Matt Thomson, Glenn Draper, Jack Bartlett (Dan Palmer 44’), Adam Murad (Tyler Hatherly 82’), Dan Ferrigno, Phil Lowen, Tommy Wade (Ben Andreos 76’), and Brett O’Connor.
Sub not used:, Jonah Evans & Tom Cowell.
Match Report by Ray Greenall
Photos © 2016 Alfred Field
Video © 2016 Nathan Hobley