Sault Keeps Sports On Top

by Peter Scherer

A second half strike from Ben Sault gave Mickleover a 1-0 victory at strugglers Berkhamsted, and keeps them on top of the table in alphabetical order from Needham Market.

Starting line-up: 1-Lewis Ridd 2-Matty Bowman 3-Rhys Dolan 4-Will Atkinson 5-Fin Delap 6-Ethan Mann 7-Andy Dales 8-Ben Sault 9-Leon Clarke 10-Marcus Barnes 11-Oli Greaves. Subs: Will Truman, Dan Bradley, Stuart Beavon, Jake Bennett, Fin Ryder.

It was a fairly enthusiastic start from both sides on a sunny but chilly afternoon, with Berkhamsted earning the first corner after three minutes.

But Mickleover were soon piling the pressure on the home defence, with Bowman and Greaves causing havoc on the right wing.

Clarke went close with a header after six minutes and two minutes later a weak back pass from Lawal was almost intercepted by Greaves, before keeper Head managed to clear the danger.

Barnes then saw his ninth minute effort bounce off the top of the bar after another Greaves set up, before Ridd was called into action to collect a Lawal cross or shot after a counter attack.

Mickleover were on top for possession and kept the home side well back in their own half, but again luck wasn’t on Sports side, when a Dales chip after 15 minutes had the keeper beaten, only for Dan Newton to clear off the line at the far post.

Skipper Bateman had a shot saved by Ridd after 18 minutes and became the driving force for the hosts as they attempted to break from their own half.

Sault had been playing a deeper midfield role than his norm, but he left fly with a shot just wide on the left after 20 minutes, after a slow but precise build up.

Dales and Clarke both had shots blocked on the edge of the box, before Clarke almost set Greaves free. But Dolan began to work more on the left-hand overlap, sending in a precision cross, met by Greaves with a glancing header.

Barnes was pulled back on the edge of the box to earn a free kick, but that came to nought and Dales cut inside from the left 39 minutes in to try his luck, but was just off target.

Delap went in the book for a clumsy challenge on Bateman, before the first half was completed with another Mickleover corner as it remained 0-0.

No sooner was the second half underway and Mickleover went close to opening the scoring again. Dales effort was saved, but as Barnes went for the rebound, the ball took a nasty bobble and he failed to connect with the goal at his mercy.

After the hosts had managed to put a free kick into the adjoining woodland, they began to grow in confidence and gave Mann and Delap more action in the centre of the Sports defence, as the pushed forward.

After 51 minutes a nice lay off from Clarke set up Sault, who’s blast was palmed away by Head for a corner. A free kick soon followed, but Greaves’ effort found platform one of the adjoining station.

With Greaves and Sault both pushing forward more with Atkinson in support, Berkhamsted had a couple of dangerous looking breaks, but just before the hour mark the deadlock was finally broken. There had been some close passing in the box, before the ball came back to Sault from Clarke, his strike burst into the top right-hand corner and at last it was 1-0.

Trueman was the first sub to come on for Barnes, but Dales was able to snatch the ball from Lackey after 63 minutes, only to have his shot blocked by Massingham.

Another Clarke lay off a couple of minutes later saw Greaves shot well over the bar, before Clarke then came off to make way for Beavon.

Far from demoralised, the hosts continued to push forward and went close themselves when Ridd had to make a diving save from Newton after 79 minutes.

Bradley came on for Greaves for the last six minutes and Trueman went close in the final minute of normal time. Bateman had the final shot of the game though in time added on, but a solid performance from the hosts belied their lowly position in the table.

It’s cup football again on Tuesday as we visit Matlock Town in the Derbyshire Senior Cup, before returning to league action at home to St.Ives on Saturday.


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