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Southern Premier League Challenge Cup
Beaconsfield Town 2 Berkhamsted 2
(Beaconsfield win 5-4 on penalties)
Rams Man of the Match - Reece Yorke
Berkhamsted arrived at Holloways Park for the League Challenge Cup fixture brimming with confidence after a stellar September. In four league fixtures the Division One central table toppers notched four wins, banging in fourteen goals without reply and pulling five points clear at the top with a 3-2 victory over Thame on Saturday.
The visitors made eight changes from that win and Rams manager Gary Meakin also took the opportunity to rest legs and give squad and youth players some much needed match practice in a competition which, let’s be honest, is no one’s priority in an already crowded fixture schedule.
The changes were more immediately apparent for the visitors, who looked as if they had yet to be introduced to each other, as a fluent Beaconsfield flew into them from the first whistle.
Jon-Jo Bates drew two excellent flying saves from Harrison Rogers in the visitors goals in the opening three minutes. The first high to the keepers right whilst the second had him plunging low to his left to tip the effort away for a corner.
This was played short to Alex Nolan who picked out Tyrell Mitford. The striker took his tally for the season to six goals, losing his marker ahead of the near post to rise and direct a deft glancing header across Rogers and in at the unguarded far post.
The Rams continued to dominate but without causing too many alarms for the visitors who were struggling to get to grips with James McCluskey and Ade Shokunbi pulling the strings in the centre of midfield.
In the opening half hour Berko were limited to efforts from Jonathan Lacey and Steven Dodd both heading over when well-placed and on 35 minutes they found themselves two down when a corner fell to Jon-Jo Bates on the edge of the area and the busiest player on the field in the first half thrashed in a first time return shot which Rogers could do nothing about.
At this point the home side seemed to be completely on top and likely to cruise to a comfortable victory against visitors who, despite working hard and willingly for each other, simply couldn’t get anything going.
Half time 2-0
The second half started quietly enough, so quietly that the home side seemed to have decided that the job was done and they could knock off for the evening and see out the second half
The visitors sensed the lethargy and introduced Ashley Morrissey and Connor Toomey who immediately set about taking the game by the scruff of the neck. Now it was Beaconsfield on the back foot and disjointed, unable to dominate play as the had in the first half and under pressure in and out of possession.
It was no surprise when Stephen Dodd gave the visitors something to show for their efforts though Borja Loeches Teixeira will feel a little hard done by. Advancing quickly from his line he spread himself well to block the striker’s initial effort only for the ball to balloon up off his body allowing Dodd to leap and convert his own rebound.
That said it was no more than Berko deserved and the only real question in the immediate aftermath was, “when will they equalise?
We didn’t have to wait long for the answer, three minutes to be precise as Josh Lacey slammed a cross shot in off the post after a blistering run by Ashley Morrissey.
Beaconsfield were rocking. Like a heavyweight on the ropes bobbing and weaving but still taking punishment. It seemed a formality that the knockout blow would come. Borja Loeches Teixeira made a point blank save from Lacey whilst Toomey and Dodd missed chances they would probably bury on a different day.
Gary Meakin introduced Ryan Parsons for some extra solidity at the back allowing Mayo Balogun to push forward and break up play in a more advanced position and ease the pressure on the back four. The change had the desired effect and without ever re-establishing their early dominance Beaconsfield were able to regain some composure and territory and keep the visitors a little more at arms-length in the final quarter.
Berko still looked lively but Borja Loeches Teixeira negotiated the remainder of the evening without further alarm. At the other end Rogers had to be alert to clear a couple of dangerous Mitford bound through balls but barely broke sweat for the final 15 minutes.
Full time 2-2
The dye was caste with the first Berkhamsted spot kick which Borja Loeches Teixeira watched on to his crossbar and away to safety. Despite the visitors being foot perfect thereafter,
Beaconsfield showed great composure to hold on to their advantage slotting all five of their spot kicks.
Honourable mentions go to Mihai-Adrei Chiriac the youngest player on the pitch who calmly stroked home his penalty and James McCluskey who took responsibility for the all-important fifth penalty which he calmly rolled into the corner to put Beaconsfield through to the next round.
Berkhamsted may feel with some justification that their second half performance should have been enough to progress but equally the home side could point to their first half dominance when greater ruthlessness would have seen them through. A draw was probably about right in as a clear a game of two halves as you are ever likely to see.
Penalties are always a lottery but I doubt they Berkhamsted will be looking back at the end of the season to bemoan an early exit from the League Challenge Cup if they achieve their primary goal of promotion. Meanwhile its back to league duty away at high flying Poole Town on Saturday for The Rams and the serious business of making sure we are here next season to face Berko in League and not just League Cup action.
1. Borja Loeches Teixeira
2. Alex Nolan
3. Mayo Balogun
4. Reece Yorke ©
5. Jordan Ajanlekoko
6. James McCluskey
7.Kane Guy-Seifert (Sub12. Ryan Parsons 71)
8. Ade Shokunbi
9. Jon-Jo Bates (Sub16 Mihai-Andrei Chiriac 81)
10. Tyrell Mitford
11. Kaine Kennedy-Sinclar(Sub14 Luke Heneghan 65)
Subs Not Used:
5. Lewis Albert
17. Brendan Matthew
Manager: Gary Meakin
1. Harrison Rogers
2. Steve Hatch
3. Daniel Murphy
4. Ben Spaul
5. Darren Locke
6. Max Farrelly
7. Will Summerfield (Sub15 Ash Morrissey 60)
8. Josh Chamberlain ©
11. Marley Hamilton(Sub14 Connor Toomey 60)
Subs Not Used:
12. Erin Amu
16. Lee Stobbs
Manager: Lee Bircham and Steve Bateman
Ref: Stuart Smith - Assistants: Isaac Blakey - James Field