Reds end campaign with victory at Ampthill
Stuart Pearson scored the only goal as Baldock Town ended their campaign with a 1-0 win at Ampthill Town on Saturday.
Harpenden Town’s 2-1 win over Codicote on the same afternoon means that only an unlikely 7-0 defeat at home to Brimsdown in their final game will deny them the second promotion position.
The footballing Gods just don’t seem to have been shining on Luke Gregson’s men this season. Despite having to play 11 of their last 13 matches away from home, playing all of the top ten in that period and having amassed a new club record 92 points, they look almost certain to agonisingly miss out.
Having trawled back through the records of previous SSML campaigns, Welwyn won the title with 92 points in 2014/15 and if Harpenden avoid defeat on Saturday, it will be a new record points total for a Division One runner-up since the year 2000.
Following Tuesday’s disappointing 1-0 defeat at Rothamsted Park, the Reds travelled to Ampthill Park knowing that only a goalfest would stop Harpenden from all but sealing their place in the Premier Division for next season.
Manager Gregson made four changes to his starting line up. Jack Farmer returned in goal after serving a two-match ban, whilst Freddie Morris came in at centre half for the injured Liam Kenna. Josh Furness and Harry Holland replaced Callum Riley and Owen Robertson.
Both teams traded chances in the opening 15 minutes. For Baldock, Luke Gregson forced a save following a Lee Harman knock-down and then soon after a ball through to Harman saw the Baldock forward skew his shot off target.
The visitors were dominating possession. A nice flowing move involving Louis Lee, Furness and then Luke Gregson saw the latter cross for Harman who headed over. Ampthill wasted a good chance a couple of minutes later when a corner to the far post was headed over completely unchallenged.
On the half hour, Louis Lee played a slide-rule pass into the path of Harman. He twisted and turned in the box, but the keeper was equal to his shot at goal. Harman was getting plenty of decent service in the first half, but again he was unable to convert following another good ball from Luke Gregson with the outside of the boot.
Just when you were starting to think it was going to be another one of those days, the Reds finally made the breakthrough on 40 minutes. A good ball from Harman to the far post was bundled home by Stuart Pearson.
With the chances that the visitors were creating, a handsome victory was certainly not beyond the realms, but the ball just didn’t seem to want to go in. This was almost epitomised on 51 minutes when a good low cross to the near post by Lee Harman found Harry Holland virtually a yard out and somehow the ball hit the post and went to safety.
Holland turned provider on the hour when he cut back on to his left foot and sent over the kind of cross that is just crying out to be smashed home, but no one was able to apply the finishing touch. Gregson blazed another shot wide following a cross from Harman.
Ampthill had their moments on the counter attack in the last twenty minutes, but both Pearson and Morris put in some good challenges when called upon to snuff out any danger.
Owen Robertson was thrown on with fifteen minutes left and his pace and endeavour kept Baldock on the front foot in the closing stages. However, the glut of goals that Baldock required to give themselves a chance of pulling off the unlikely, just wouldn’t come.
I’m sure there will be conversations and debate between management, players and supporters over the close season as to where and how our fate ultimately played out, but any other season, we would have done enough for promotion. The statistics reflect that.
You have to take your hat off to both Biggleswade and Harpenden who have had to show a high level of consistency over the course of the campaign to see us off over 40 games. We wish both clubs well in the Premier Division next season and we will hopefully go away, lick our wounds, learn from the disappointment and come back fighting stronger than ever next term.
Town: Farmer, Lee, Payne, Morris, Pearson, J Gregson, Coppin, L Gregson, Holland(Robertson 76), Harman(Barker 90), Furness(Beckwith 89) Subs Not Used: Gilbert, Starling