Hadley Wood & Wingate 5 - 1 Saratt
By Andy Gerlis
Hadley Wood and Wingate showed they are determined to finish their successful season in style with a 5-1 victory at home to Sarratt FC.
In truth, the game was over by the end of the first half as Jack Read's four minute hat trick and Joe Killingback's long-range strike saw the Blues race into a 4-0 lead within half an hour.
John McGeachy pulled one back for the visitors but Cameron Lyttle's second half goal dispelled any hopes of a Sarratt comeback.
The result leaves Hadley Wood sitting in second place of the Herts Senior Counties League and, with promotion already guaranteed, Frankie Webb's men can now focus on catching leaders Standon and Puckeridge.
Six places and 19 points separated the sides going into the games and the gulf was obvious from the start.
The home side went 1-0 up after just 10 minutes when Alex Hadjithemistou's looping cross was headed in by Read.
And the striker, who has featured prominently for both Wingate and Finchley and Hadley Wood and Wingate this season, doubled the Blues' lead within a minute when he poked the ball past Jamie Grierson from close range.
With Sarratt on the ropes, Read landed the knockout punch 14 minutes in, stabbing home another fine Hadjithemistou cross to complete his hat trick and become Hadley Wood and Wingate's top scorer with 14 goals from just seven appearances this season.
The tempo refused to die down and Killingback's long range strike caught Grierson off-guard, the goalkeeper slipping as the ball sailed past him to make it 4-0 in under 20 minutes.
With the match all but over, Hadley Wood could be forgiven for temporarily taking their foot off the gas.
James Karena was on hand to clear the ball off the line following a goalmouth scramble, but McGeachy popped up from the resulting corner to head his first goal of the season and hand Sarratt a small lifeline.
Conceding seemed to switch the Blues back on and Sarratt captain Ian Mcintosh had to bail out his goalkeeper by clearing Read's shot off the line as it threatened to trickle in.
And Grierson was tested by the striker yet again, but the goalkeeper nervously spilled his long range shot around the post just before half time.
Karl Stevenson had the Blues' first chance after the restart but managed to drag his volley into Grierson's arms.
Read left the field to a standing ovation on the hour mark and Lyttle, his replacement, picked up exactly where the striker had left off.
Collecting a pass on the edge of the box, the diminutive attacker curled a delightful shot into the far corner within just 15 seconds of stepping on to the pitch, putting Hadley Wood 5-1 up.
With the home side's lead now unassailable, Sarratt were again allowed to creep back into the game.
Jamie Taylor and Mark Shanahan both fired wide while McGeachy skimmed a free header well off the mark.
Chasing down every ball despite the scoreline, Williams Agyei-Danquah saw Grierson tip his ambitious chip from outside the area on to the bar, before a sensational run from the winger ended with a shot that whistled past the post.
A ruthless display from a team that appears to have outgrown its league, Hadley Wood and Wingate will look to carry this performance into their game on Saturday away at Buntingford Town.
Hadley Wood and Wingate: Weinrabe (GK), Karena, Walton-Owen, Marriott, Chingoka (Kouroushi, 65'), Hadjithemistou, Stevenson, Killingback (C) Harris, Read (Lyttle, 60'), Agyei-Danquah
Referee: Peter Killen
Man of the match: Williams Agyei-Danquah