Cockfosters strike late as Comrades pay the penalty

Alex Campana takes on the Cockfosters defence. Picture (c) Ray Canham
Alex Campana takes on the Cockfosters defence. Picture (c) Ray Canham

Berkhamsted dropped two points as a late penalty saw Cockfosters snatch a 2-2 draw in Saturday’s SSML Premier Division clash at Broadwater.

It was deep into stoppage time when Emanuel Melford-Rose converted the spot kick after being brought down in the box and gave the visitors the point that their battling performance deserved.

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

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

Berkhamsted had a host of opportunities to put the game out of sight and visitors were indebted to goalkeeper Austin Byfield who made a string of fine saves.

The Comrades had begun the game in fine fettle – memories of last weekend’s painful defeat to Morpeth fading away – and were ahead inside 10 minutes.

Steve Hawes, so often the architect for Berkhamsted, fired a cross in from the right and found Josh Chamberlain, who scored his 15th goal of the season with a looping header that left Byfield with no chance.

It was very nearly 2-0 not long afterwards, with the strong hand of the Fosters goalkeeper denying Alex Campana’s low drive.

Dan Weeks tries a shot at goal. Picture (c) Ray Canham

Dan Weeks tries a shot at goal. Picture (c) Ray Canham

Cockfosters played with a level of vigour and vitality that belied their mid-table status; the runs and movement of the front trio Courtney Lawrence, Sivi Bao and Ikem Odeh causing the Berkhamsted back line a fair few problems.

The visitors would have come within a hair’s breadth of an equaliser if only Lawrence had made better connection with Melford-Rose’s tantalising through ball.

Despite growing into the game, the visitors found themselves two goals down when Tom Carter headed in Campana’s corner to put the Comrades into a commanding lead, albeit one that lasted all of a few minutes.

Lawrence finally found some space down the left, beat the last defender and lifted the ball over the onrushing Rob Evans, watching it roll into the bottom corner.

The goal gave Cockfosters a lifeline into the game and they came out firing after the half time break, with Callum Lee nearly getting through on goal only for a last ditch Ed Canham tackle to deny the shooting opportunity.

The chance seemed to rouse a sleepy Berkhamsted back into life and they had a series of chances, only to see Byfield deny them time and again.

First Campana’s turn and shot was well saved, and then left back Dan Weeks was denied after Byfield saved with his legs.

The save of the match was left for the final 10 minutes, however. Campana rose to send a header towards goal that looked destined to find the back of the net only for an outstanding finger-tip save to deny the Comrades.

It looked for all the world like the Comrades would see the game out but, deep into added time, but a needlessly risky challenge on Melford-Rose saw the referee point decisively to the penalty spot.

Melford-Rose stepped up, coolly slotted the penalty past Evans and celebrated triumphantly as he salvaged a point for his side.

It was the last action of a competitive match, but the Comrades will feel very much like they should have taken all three points.

Next up sees them entertain high flyers Hertford Town, while Cockfosters will look to build on this late rally against bottom side Harefield United.

Berko: Evans, Mead (Edwards), Weeks, Baldry, Canham, Rodrigoe, Carter, Hawes, O’Donovan (Mannion), Campana, Chamberlain (Frederick). Subs not used: Gilbert and Jackson.

Elsewhere, Berko’s reserve side nearly caused an upset in the Suburban Plate with a 1-1 draw at top of the table Tring Athletic.

Both teams scored in the second half, with George Carbery netting for Berko. However Tring scored all their penalties to win the shoot-out, with Ben Gomm, Ollie Hunt and Tom Garraway scoring for Berko.

Berko’s last chance to win a cup is the Challenge Trophy. Tomorrow they entertain Hertford Town in the quarter-final of the competition, before travelling to Bedford on Saturday as they look to complete a league double.

In the Suburban League North, Berko entertain Dunstable Town on Saturday.