This game matches St Margaretsbury against fellow Spartan South Midlands League team Berkhamsted, but their ‘roads’ to Round 3 of the FA Vase couldn’t have been more different.
|BERKO SHAKE HANDS FOLLOWING THE WIN AGAINST HULLBRIDGE...|
The visitors have played only once, presumably due to a decent record in the tournament recently, a game I saw against Hullbridge Sports from Essex and despite a couple of second-half lapses, Berko’s 5-2 home success was well deserved. Striker Ash Campbell scored a brace in that match and he tops the scoring chart at Broadwater, with 16 goals, followed by Adam Mead, who has 10.
|CAMPBELL CELEBRATES v HULLBRIDGE...|
St Mags, in contrast, have been through four FA Vase games, two at home and two away. They began with a 3-0 win at Spartan South Midlands Division 1 outfit Codicote, then a 4-1 victory at Eastern Counties Division 1 club Halstead Town, before edging out Essex Senior League Ilford 3-2 at home and then beating Eastern Counties Premier side Stanway Rovers 4-2, after overtime, also at Station Road. Stanway Rovers currently lie second in their division...
In the league, St Mags lie 19th, winning just 3 of 16 matches, having amassed 13 points, with a goal difference of minus 8, whereas Berko lie 6th in the league with 10 wins from 18 games, yet drawing only 2 of the remaining 8. They have 32 points, with a goal difference of plus 15 and the team hasn’t drawn an away game in any competition…
Saints’ top goalscorer is Ryan Wade with 17 goals from 23 matches, followed by Harley Haag with 11 and Courtney Clay with 10. Surely Ryan should have a Christian name beginning with W and ending with a ‘y’ to fit in with the other two? Maybe Wesley? Hmm…
|LET'S HOPE THE GOALMOUTHS ARE SLIGHTY LESS GRASSY...|
St Mags’ home and away goals records in 26 games this season are remarkably similar though: at home they have scored 24 and conceded 31, whereas away, they have netted 23 times but have conceded 31 again. They have lost 7 of their 13 home matches…
The November records of each team show that both are in some good form, for Berko have won 4 and lost 1 (goals 16 to 9), whereas St Mags have won 4 and lost 2 (goals 18 to 9).
Both Managers have kindly written some comments about the tie and these follow below. Many thanks go to St Margaretsbury’s John Barker and Berkhamsted’s Tom Garratt for taking the time to email me…
John Barker writes:
|JOHN PREPARES A PRE-MATCH MEAL FOR HIS PLAYERS...|
“After being left with just 7 senior players at the start of last season, we had a massive rebuilding job on our hands and our sole aim was to survive in the Premier Division, a feat which we achieved on the penultimate day of the season.
This year saw many more new faces come in and it has taken a while to get the right balance in the squad.
Going into November we were rock bottom of the league with only 4 points. Although our league position looked bad our performances were not and I honestly thought it was only a matter of time before results changed for the better.
A run of 4 wins and a draw have seen us move up to 19th in the league and into the 3rd Round of the FA Vase.
The Vase run has been a great story for the club as it is the furthest we have got in a number of years and given we were massive underdogs in the last two rounds, it makes it even more rewarding.
We have played Berkhamsted twice this season and lost on both occasions. I respect them a great deal as they are an excellent footballing side and are always extremely tough opponents. However, whilst we are again underdogs, we have already proved we can provide an upset and will be hoping to do so again on Saturday.”
Berkhamsted’s Tom Garratt’s views:
|TOM WANTS MORE BERKO SUCCESS AT ST MAGS...|
“Saturday concerns me as we’ve played St Mags twice this year and beaten them twice. We can’t make it their lucky third game. They’ve been a lot closer games than the score-lines have suggested, so we need to be mentally tuned in.
The pitch can be a bit of a leveller but it was a decent surface a couple of months ago, so it would be disappointing if it had been cut up too much since then. The bottom line is they are a good side, better than their league position suggests in my opinion and they will cause us problems if we’re not at the races.
We, like them, have got a few injury concerns. Matt Bateman is also cup-tied having played for Leighton in an earlier round. Lewis Rodrigoe joined Kings Langley on a dual registration last week and it’s down to him if he plays or not. He’s already said that he would like to play and we’ve agreed with Paul Hobbs that if he wants to play he will, the same as it was for them last week in the FA Trophy but I’m sure they are just as keen for him to play for them so we will see how that pans out. Ash Lewis is also suspended but we’ve got a few players coming back into the squad, so like every week, we’ll make sure we’re strong enough to do the job and hope the players perform.
The Vase is hugely important for us but so is the league still. We’ve slipped up in a few league games but have still performed well with a new playing style which the boys have taken well to. It’s difficult when you’re losing by the odd preventable goal and the Wembley result was really the first time we’ve been completely out-played, out-worked and out-thought for a long, long time; it was the worst performance since I think the Broxbourne game last year.
The boys responded very well last week and that was good to see. I don’t think there’s anyone at this level we shouldn’t give a real game to but I’m sure there’s a lot of clubs out there who would say the same thing.
Consistency is the key and the teams that will go on to win things will be the ones with the players who are there week after week and commit to their football. We lost out last year in the FA Vase to Morpeth, the eventual winners, when we were missing a few in midfield and to be fair I think we were a little bit one dimensional and naïve in our play then. We had a few individuals and I think this year we’re far more of a team.
Those are the things we’ve tried to address this year, plan A, then plan B, then plan C. We’ve a strong squad and this is the time of year that they all need to stand up to be counted. They’ve got the ability, no question, the mentality is there, it’s just getting them to bring it in their kitbag every week, no matter who we’re playing, no matter what the conditions, no matter what the outside influences are. Ninety minutes, forget about it, get on with it, win, and have a beer afterwards…
We’ll have a game plan like we always do, we know they’ve watched us recently but to be honest anyone that watches us one week to the next will see differences in the side and this week will be no different. They’ll have to deal with something different but we’ll concentrate on us and not get involved in anything else. We like to play with purpose and a tempo, they’ll try to stop that and good luck to them. It’ll be a good game and we’re very much looking forward to it.
Our form since Hullbridge has, shall we say, been ‘indifferent’. We’ve lost 6-0 and won 6-1, so one couldn’t get more of an extreme really. I guess what you can say is that on current form we can guarantee goals; I just hope they are in our favour this coming weekend…”
|BERKO'S BROADWATER GROUND...|
THANKS TO BOTH MANAGERS...
I will write a full report of the match, I’ll also include some images and hopefully video clips of many of the incidents which matter. Both clubs are welcome to use anything I produce for their own purposes, if indeed they deem them worthy!
I have a journey from Solihull to endure but I look forward to what should be a keen rivalry at a new ground for me.