Berkhamsted eventually had a comfortable 5-1 win over South Park in their FA Trophy debut in front of a good home crowd on Saturday.
Isthmian League side South Park made a good start, putting Berko under pressure at Broadwater’s canal end with a succession of free-kicks, but The Comrades came back strongly in the second-half to book a place in the next round of the competition with ease.
In-form striker Matt Bateman gave Berko the lead on 29 minutes with a well-taken goal, but their Reigate-based opponents equalised just two minutes later courtesy of Andrew Herring, who got momentum with a free header from a corner.
Berko retook the lead from the penalty spot on 33 minutes after a near mugging. Bateman using his right foot to convert the penalty and send the Park keeper the wrong way.
Four minutes into the second-half Will Summerfield scored for the third consecutive match to give Berko a 3-1 lead. It was the best worked goal of the game with Bateman laying the ball to James Towell, who crossed from the right to set it up.
From then on, Park became dispirited and the contest was effectively over as Berko dominated the rest of the encounter at the canal end.
A 20-yard wonder strike from the recently-returned Connor Toomey on 75 minutes made the tie totally safe to put Berko 4-1 up.
Bateman completed his hat-trick on 87 minutes, again from a spot kick, after substitute Louis Austin had been brought down by visiting keeper Michael Eacott.
The victory in this preliminary-round tie put Berko in the hat for the first qualifying round, with the draw taking place on Monday lunchtime.
There will be 72 ties at the next stage, featuring 144 non-league clubs. Berko will face Isthmian League South Central side Chipstead away on Saturday, October 27.
Winning clubs at the next stage receive £3,250 from the competition’s prize fund.
Berko v South Park: Weatherill, Folarin, Murphy, Toomey, Kinnane, McCrohan, Towell, Dada (Farrelly), Bateman, Empson (Austin), Summerfield (Lukulay). Subs not used: G Jones, Campbell.
Berko now have a run of three away games in seven days. They started last night (Tuesday) in the Herts Senior Cup at London Colney as the Gazette was going to press.
On Saturday they take a long trip to Sutton Coldfield Town in their return to Southern League South Central Division One action.
Next Tuesday, October 23, they then travel to Didcot Town in a rearranged league fixture.
Berko’s development team are at home this Saturday to St Margaretsbury in the Herts Intermediate Cup.
The under-18s play Wycombe Wanderers Set at Amersham tomorrow night (Thursday) and the under-16s host Tilbury in the EJA midweek cup on the same night.