Berko see off Saffron Walden to keep FA Vase dreams alive

Bradley O'Donovan, centre, challenges for the ball. Picture (c) Ray Canham

Bradley O'Donovan, centre, challenges for the ball. Picture (c) Ray Canham

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Berkhamsted booked their place in the last-32 of the FA Vase as they held on to win 3-2 in front of 323 fans at windy Saffron Walden on Saturday.

The wind was a big factor in the proverbial game of two halves, with Berko making a decent start as they forced several early corners – Tom Carter going closest with a shot that just cleared the bar.

Adam Mead netted from the spot for Berko. Picture (c) Ray Canham

Adam Mead netted from the spot for Berko. Picture (c) Ray Canham

The pressure eventually told as Steve Hawes opened the scoring midway through the first half with a well struck right foot shot from just outside the penalty area, beyond the diving Floyd Croll.

Adam Mead put a free-kick just past the post and Aaron Nash-Barker went even closer by striking the post, before Berko deservedly doubled their lead towards the end of the first half when Paul Abbott tripped Alex Campana in the box and Mead found the bottom corner of the net with a sweetly struck spot kick.

Saffron Walden responded with a goal early in the second half when top scorer James Thomas netted from close range, but Berko soon restored their two-goal advantage when Carter netted with a fierce 20-yard shot past Croll.

Thomas wasted a good chance with a shot that went wide, before Lewis Rodrigoe cleared off the line as the pressure mounted.

Number 8 Steve Hawes celebrates scoring his goal. Picture (c) Ray Canham

Number 8 Steve Hawes celebrates scoring his goal. Picture (c) Ray Canham

The main threat was an aerial bombardment at dead balls, with the aid of the wind, and with half an hour left Jamie Solkhon set up a grandstand finish by sweeping the ball home to make it 3-2.

With first choice keeper Carl Tasker suspended, Berko gave a debut in goal to young Jack Smith, and he back-pedalled well to put a Jake Noble lob over the bar.

Snelling and Calver put headers beyond the back post as the home side went all out for an equaliser, but it was actually Berko that came closest to adding the extra goal.

Campana was tripped on the D, and Mead’s superbly struck free-kick pinged back off the post.

There was a brief flare-up late in the game, after James Towell and a home player challenged for the ball, and it ended with Berko down to 10 men as Hawes picked up his second yellow of the game.

But Berko heroically kept them out for the last few minutes of normal time, despite being a man short, to set up a home clash with Hullbridge Sports on Saturday, January 9.

Berko: Smith, Mead, Weeks, Baldry, Rodrigoe, Farrelly, Nash-Barker (Towell), Hawes, O’Donovan, Campana, Carter (Carbery). Subs not used: Trevillion and Gilbert.

Meanwhile, Bedmond’s first team made it to the quarter-finals of the Herts Intermediate Cup on Saturday with a 3-0 win at Broadwater over Berko’s Suburban League side.

On Tuesday Berko will be looking to make it into the quarter-finals of the Challenge Trophy when they are at home to SSML Division One side Ampthill Town.

Carl Tasker and Frankie Jowle again miss out through suspension, while the squad is already stretched with injuries to first team regulars Josh Chamberlain, Adiel Mannion, Dan Edwards and Jude Eboji.

On Saturday Berko ‘s fourth placed first team go to FC Broxbourne Borough in a Premier Division game.

At Broadwater there is a Suburban League North match on Saturday when Berko are at home to Leverstock Green Reserves.