Nine-man Berko hold on for a draw
Honours ended even in a very competitive derby between fourth-ranked Leverstock Green and league leaders Berkhamsted on Saturday in front of 161 fans in the wind.
It was the third consecutive 2-2 draw between the sides.
The top-of-the-table local derby was played in front of a bumper crowd at Pancake Lane and it shows how far this Leverstock side has come over the last couple of months that they ended up disappointed at only getting a point against the unbeaten table-toppers.
Berkhamsted had been reduced to nine men after 80 minutes but held on through the remaining ten minutes plus an extra ten minutes of stoppage time to gain a hard-won point.
The Pancake Lane pitch had taken the rain of the previous few days well, and no pitch inspection was required. A bigger problem for the players was the strong wind, with both sides hitting corners that cleared everybody in the box in the opening half hour.
Berko keeper Carl Tasker did well to make a couple of early saves to keep out shots from Matt Bateman and Curtis Donaldson. At the other end, long shots from Max Farrelly and Josh Chamberlain were off-target.
All the goals came in a ten-minute spell either side of half-time as the game exploded into action.
Poor marking in the 33rd minute allowed Levy’s Bateman acres of space to score – for the 10th consecutive match – against his old teammates, after a pass from another ex-Berko player Ross Adams.
However, within three minutes Berko were level with Farrelly also scoring against his old side with a little lob over Green netminder Matt Evans when Ashley Morrissey found him with a pass.
Berko got their noses in front within a few minutes as Green failed to mark Ashton Campbell who finished clinically with a low shot past Evans from inside the area.
Early in the second-half Brima Johnson became the third player to score against his old club , catching Tasker off his line with a long shot from 25 yards that had wind assistance.
That was the end of the scoring, but by no means the drama. Bateman had a goal disallowed for offside when he netted after reacting to a loose ball which Tasker parried after a shot from Johnson. Soon after a Chris Marsh shot pinged the Berko post.
The referee had allowed some stud-showing tackles in the first-half but was having none of it in the second and Berko’s Steve Hawes and Jack Stevens both got red cards for serious foul play in tackles, leaving Berko to play what proved to be the last 20 minutes with just nine men.
Injuries forced Berko into three substitutions but they were able to hold on for a point to stay top and remain undefeated in the league.
The other unbeaten team in the division, Welwyn Garden City, leapfrogged over Harpenden Town after their 3-0 win and are now just a point behind Berko with three games in hand.
Levy remain in fourth place in the SSML Premier table.
Berko: Carl Tasker, Jack Stevens, Dan Weeks (Will Bisney), Max Farrelly, Jon Munday, Kyle Anthony, Ashley Morrissey, Steve Hawes, Ashton Campbell, Dan Jones (Frankie Jowle), Josh Chamberlain (Josh Helmore). Subs not used: Ashley Lewis, Ben Bateman.
Levy Green: Matt Evans, Alex Marsh (Reynaldo Carbon), Brima Johnson, Shane Wood, Liam McCrohan ( Luke Nugent), Jack Wood, Ross Adams, Chris Marsh, David Lawrence (Luke Marsh), Curtis Donaldson, Matt Bateman. Sub not used: Martin Garvey.
On Saturday it is top versus third when Berko entertain Harpenden at 3pm while Leverstock are away at Wembley, also at 3pm.
Berko hope to have a quintet that missed the Green game available on Saturday in the shape of Adam Mead, Alex Campana , Stacey Field, Ashley Lewis and Ben Bateman.
Hawes and Stevens will be suspended and Dan Weeks was injured in the Levy match and had to go to hospital with his arm in a sling.
This Tuesday night, January 9, Berko host Royston Town in the Herts Senior Cup. Royston are two divisions above Berko so it should be a tough test. The winners will be away at Hertford Town in the next round.