Sat 15th Sep 2018
Sponsored by Mick Eldridge
TAFC First team 5-1 Harpenden Town
TAFC goals: Kieran Turner (2), David O'Connor, Carl Mensah, Ben Johnson
WE ARE TOP OF THE LEAGUE
A highly satisfying Saturday afternoon saw us put 5 goals past a stubborn Harpenden Town side, a result that took us to the top of the table. Last season we struggled in front of goal but some quality summer signings has greatly improved the strength and depth of our squad and we now pack a real punch in front of goal, scoring on average 2 goals a game more than we did last season.
Our guests returned to the Premier Division last season after an absence of 12 years and they did supremely well in their first year back. They did the double over us and finished 3rd, only 2 points behind the runners up spot. They have not started this season so well lying 12th in the table with 3 wins, 1 draw and 5 defeats in all competitions scoring only 7 goals in the process.
But from past experience, when we used to play them on a regular basis, they were always tough opponents and they demonstrated that by being compact and competitive. They did cause us some anxiety in the second half when they narrowed the score to 2-1 but our quality finally told and in the end we ran out convincing winners.
They had some familiar faces in their side including Matt Sutton who came through our junior ranks and into our first team as well as Carl Tasker, Adam Mead and Steve Hawes who were part of the Berkhamsted side that won promotion last season.
The first quarter of the game was a scrappy affair with nether keeper being called into action. Harpenden's George Robinson and Kyle McLeish produced shots that were off target whilst Billie Busari shot wide following a good move. Ashton Campbell did find the net but was denied a goal by a marginal offside decision. Chris Vardy, wearing the Captain's armband, went close with a free kick that Carl Tasker tipped onto the bar and over.
But as the first half reached the half way stage we began to warm to the task and started to look more dangerous. Kieran Turner and Chris Vardy linked up well with the latter forcing Tasker to block his decent shot. But all was not lost as from the resulting corner we opened the scoring in the 27th minute with a well worked training ground routine.
Joe Fitzgerald's finely struck set piece was flicked on by Ashton Campbell and Dave O'Connor converted from close range. It was DOC's first goal of the season and his 10th for the club in 120 appearances. Score 1-0.
We were now buzzing and doubled our lead within 2 minutes. Following some pressure on the visitors Luke Dunstan superbly won the ball and found Kieran Turner who produced a great finish. Score 2-0.
The visitors nearly had a sight of goal in the 36th minute when we missed a routine ball into our area but Carl Mensah did supremely well to muscle the player off the ball and clear the danger.
Ashton Campbell ran clear and forced a good save from his former Berko colleague Carl Tasker and Joe Fitzgerald put a difficult chance over the top from a Kieran Turner cross.
We ended the first half well on top with a 2 goal lead in the bag. HT Score 2-0.
Some stern words must have been exchanged in the visitors dressing room during the break as they showed more intent and purpose from the restart whilst we were slow to get back into our stride.
Harpenden pushed forward determined to get back into contention and started to look more threatening for the first time in the game. Their centre forward Kyle McLeish got away down our left but shot over from an impossible angle. Kieran Turner produced a shot/cross that drifted just wide of the far post but we not firing on all cylinders.
But despite Harpenden having the better of the play Connor Sansom was not overly troubled and we still looked comfortable until a lapse in concentration saw us concede a needless penalty in the 54th minute. McLeish was going nowhere but a rash challenge saw him go down in the box and the Referee rightly pointed to the spot. Adam Mead, a set piece specialist who has tucked a few away against us in the past, did so again to reduce the deficit to one goal and give his side some hope of at least parity. Score 2-1.
The visitors grew in confidence and we had to endure a sticky period in the immediate aftermath of the goal although Billie Busari did produce some terrific skill on the edge of the oppositions area but he fired his shot over. But Harpenden's bubble was burst within 13 minutes when we restored our 2 goal lead from a free kick. Kieran Turner's well flighted kick fell to Luke Dunstan who did well to knock it back across goal to Carl Mensah who crashed the ball high into the net for his debut goal for the club. Score 3-1.
Harpenden tried to strike back from a corner which centre back Dwayne Duncan got his head to but the ball went safety into the arms of Connor Sansom. To show the depth of quality of our squad we brought on Chris Mason, Club Skipper Sam Joliffe and Alex Campana who went on to play a crucial part in closing out the game.
With 8 minutes remaining Camps played a superb part in setting up Kieran Turner who does not waste such opportunities and 2 minutes later Camps linked up with Ashton Campbell to give Ben Johnson a chance to head home from close range. Ben had previously played 61 games without scoring but has now scored in his last two games. Score 5-1.
There could have been further goals with Alex Campana and Kieran Turner finding themselves 2 on 1 with the keeper and right on time Ashton Campbell forced a very good save from the keeper but we mustn't be too greedy. FT Score 5-1.
An excellent performance from all the players, with Roy Byron in particular excelling in midfield, against a strong and difficult side with three of our defenders getting on the score sheet. With a number of regulars missing (eg Connor Church, Mark Riddick, Tommy Twelves, Jack Read and Elliott Goward) it also demonstrated the depth and quality of our squad.
Afterwards Manager Ian Richardson said " "I am really pleased with the response from the squad since going out of the FA Cup against Berkhamsted. In the 6 games we have played since that defeat we have had 5 wins and a draw, scoring 24 goals. The squad is looking strong and with some tough games coming up I'll be asking the group for more of the same in the coming weeks".
We have a break from midweek action but face a really difficult away game at Hadley on Saturday. We rarely do well there and this game will be a test of how far we have improved.
TA:1 Connor Sansom 2 Ben Johnson 3 Chris Vardy (Capt) (15 Chris Mason 61) 4 Roy Byron 5 Dave O'Connor 6 Carl Mensah 7 Joe Fitzgerald (14 Sam Joliffe 77) 8 Luke Dunstan 9 Ashton Campbell 10 Kieran Turner 11 Billie Busari 12 Alex Campana 77).
HT:1 Carl Tasker 2 Mike Davis (15 Luke Forseco 87) 3 George Robinson 4 Dwayne Duncan 5 Greg Douglas 6 Matt Sutton 7 Steve O'Reilly (Capt) 8 Adam Mead (12 Steve Hawes 70) 9 Kyle McLeish 10 Charlie Gould 11 Sam James (14 Archie McClelland 78).
TA:Kieran Turner (29, 82), Dave O'Connor (27), Carl Mensah (67), Ben Johnson (84).
HT:Adam Mead (54)