Sat 28th Oct 2017
Spartan South Midlands Premier Division
Sponsored by Tash Young
TAFC First team 2-3 Harpenden Town

TAFC goals: Tommy Twelves, Luke Dunstan

Our dismay run of league results continues with this disappointing home defeat against high flying Harpenden Town which sees us drop into the bottom two of the Premier Division. At the start of play 15 places and 18 points separated us from our visitors but again it was poor decision making that made the difference, gifting two goals to our opponents proved to be too big a hurdle for us to overcome.

We had to make some changes with leading scorer Chris Blunden having left again this time for Berko but we were able to include new signing from Pitstone Carl Clay who slotted into central midfield and had a tidy game. Mark Riddick dropped to left back and we were able to recall James Butler after a period out injured.

We started well and should have been ahead within a minute when Mark Riddick's shot from a corner was blocked on the line and Jack Sunderland slipped at a crucial moment with the goal beckoning. It was encouraging to see us make such a positive start to the game against a team that has had a superb start to life in the Premier Division following promotion last season.

But we are never far away from a calamity and it duly arrived in the 17th minute when a misunderstanding in defence turned a routine cross that could have been easily cleared into an own goal. It was one of those things that seems to have happened to us regularly this season although the teams we face never seem to return the favour. Score 0-1.

After a slow start the visitors now looked enlivened and some poor play presented James Yates with a sight of goal but Jack Hopwood came to our rescue with a good save then plucked out of the air a follow up shot from Tom Warren. Harpenden were looking threatening going forward and they extended their lead in the 24th minute when following a throw Dave Keenleyside scored from the edge of the area. It was a well struck effort but questions have to be asked why he was completely unmarked. Score 0-2.

With only a quarter of the game gone and already two goals down we were facing an uphill struggle but the players showed some mettle and within three minutes we brought ourselves right back into the contest thanks to some terrific play by Luke Dunstan. Picking the ball up in midfield he produced a brilliant pass that dissected the Harpenden defence and picked out Tommy Twelves who strode through to finish smartly. HT Score 1-2.

It was just the tonic we needed but Tom Vandenbergh reminded us that our opponents were still a threat when he stabbed a cross wide. Harpenden made a rare defensive error and Chris Vardy nearly capitalised on it with a flick that just cleared the goal. A fine flowing move nearly set up Tommy Twelves with the chance to double his tally as we ended the half on an upbeat note. HT Score 1-2.

The play in the early stages of the second half was scruffy but in the 54th minute George Carbery latched onto a slack pass, did a one-two with Chris Vardy but was denied a goal by a super tackle from a defender. A minute later we were given another opportunity to get a deserved equaliser.

Luke Dunstan started the move and the ball pinged round inside the Harpenden penalty area as we desperately tried to get a shot at goal until finally Luke was able to get a strike off only to see it hit the post. It was a clear sign that it was not going to be our day.

A couple of other opportunities came our way with a George Carbery free kick just requiring a touch at the far post and Luke Dunstan was just unable to take advantage of a mistake by the keeper who missed a long ball into the box.

However, in the 71st minute we suffered another blow and again it was self inflicted. We gave the ball away cheaply in midfield just outside our area and Sam James was able to run through and score with a clinical finish. Score 1-3.

The proverbial mountain was now facing us but the lads kept going with Luke Dunstan heading a corner wide and Chris Vardy forcing a good save from the keeper following a fine raking pass from Tommy Twelves. Later Tommy had a go himself with a shot the keeper tipped around the post. It was not all one way traffic and Harry Hunt latched onto a loose ball in our area but spoilt a good opportunity with a poor pass, Jack Hopwood also had to be alert and made some sound saves.

With the clock ticking away our efforts finally bore fruit in the 88th minute when Sam Joliffe helped on a corner and Luke Dunstan scored from close range. Score 2-3. A lot of added time was played but we were unable to find another equaliser and we were condemned to yet another league defeat. FT Score 2-3.

On the balance of play Harpenden probably deserved their victory because they made fewer mistakes and took the opportunities that came their way, but we were not a million miles away from matching them. Looking at the table we are in a desperate state with just 5 points from 12 games. Yes we can point to the narrow defeats we have had against the top teams and that probably only Welwyn Garden City and Hadley have outplayed us but the table never lies and we have to cut out the errors if we want to move away from the relegation zone.

On the positive side it was good to see James Butler, Dave O'Connor and Chris Mason back from injury and hopefully Jack Seaton and Jack Read will be available for some important games coming up.

We can take a break from league action on Tuesday night when we entertain Oxhey Jets in the Herts Senior Challenge Cup but on Saturday we have a massive league fixture against fellow strugglers St Margaretsbury who are two places above us in the table. Win this game and we will reduce their lead over us to 1 point, lose it and the gap will stretch to a daunting 7 points.


TA:1 Jack Hopwood 2 Tommy Twelves 3 Mark Riddick 4 Carl Clay (16 Dave O'Connor 63) 5 Dan Steadman (Capt) 6 James Butler (15 Sam Joliffe 76) 7 Ryan Sturges 8 Luke Dunstan 9 Chris Vardy 10 George Carbery 11 Jack Sunderland (14 Max Hercules 69). Subs not used: 12 Chris Mason 17 Ben Johnson.

HT:1 Connor Samson 2 Mike Davies (16 Tom Collins 74) 3 Tom Warren 4 Sam James 5 Dwayne Duncan 6 Matt Sutton (Capt) (12 Will McCelland 85) 7 Steve O'Reilly 8 Dave Keenleyside 9 Harry Hunt 10 James Yates 11 Tom Vandenbergh (17 Jack Nevin 65). Subs not used: 14 Chris Brothwood 15 Chris Cutler.


TA:Tommy Twelves (27), Luke Dunstan (88)

HT:Own Goal (17), Dave Keenleyside (24), Sam James (71)

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