It wasn’t pretty, but Berkhamsted Raiders U14s Blues fully deserved their 3-2 victory over Taplow United at the weekend.
Twice Raiders were pegged back having seemingly got a grip on the game by going ahead. But they allowed themselves to be sucked into a battle played through the centre of the pitch rather than getting the ball down and using the full width of the pitch.
When they did concentrate on sticking to their game Raiders looked a class apart, as evidenced by the simplicity of their opener on 15 minutes. Having won a corner they played it quickly and short, allowing Jude James to beat the keeper with a curling, dipping shot.
Taplow levelled five minutes before the break and it could have been worse but for a stunning point-blank stop from keeper Cameron Edmonds.
Raiders went 2-1 up in the 51st minute with the best passage of football of the game. Luke Mathison carried the ball forward, rode a challenge and slid a pass out to the right to Will Smooker, who playing a perfect drag-back to James to sweep home into the net.
Taplow rallied and drew level eight minutes later, which led to a lengthy barrage of long balls bombed forward by the visitors and Raiders needed all the strength and determination of Gabe Millson in defence to resist.
Nine minutes from time Raiders scored the winner. The ball was loose midway inside the Taplow half and Tom Foley strode onto it before striking a fierce, low drive in the bottom corner.
Raiders’ manager Darren Heneghan said: “It was a very different type of challenge today, and while we made hard work of getting the win we deserved, the boys learned a lot again.”