On Sat 21st September an eager, if somewhat underprepared, Rickmansworth 1st XI prepared to take on Berkhamsted 2nd XI away in the first round of men’s fixtures in the 2019/20 calendar. Despite several absences due to a whole variety of reasons ranging from friend’s birthday parties to top-secret military operations, the side managed somehow to end up with a full host of players. In fact, they were even fortunate enough to have their very own super sub, Jake Watling, who just hours before was struggling to see due to a violent allergic reaction.
With the weather set to be warm, the team struggled through a lengthy 5 minute warm up before resuming their positions in preparation for the start of the match. The season’s introduction of a new formation meant the players were able to press high and put the Berko defence under early pressure. Managing to keep the opposition pressed deep in their own half, the side created early chances including a dangerous snipe down the right hand side from right midfielder, Jeff Unger. Determined pressure from new signing Jack Lieberman up top allowed Rickmansworth to win themselves an early short corner. Unable to stop the ball cleanly at the top of the D, the corner was unsuccessful although pressure was continuing to build nonetheless.
With Toby Byng and Sam Couzins combining well in midfield, the team looked set to put away an early goal and get onto the score sheet. Again, winning themselves another short corner, the side were unlucky enough to have a James Martin drag flick sail narrowly past the left hand post. Not long after this, slightly against the run of play, from a run of possession around the halfway line, Berkhamsted gathered the ball just short of the Rickmansworth D and managed to induce a foul resulting in a short corner. This lead to a well taken goal with the strike from the top of the D just grazing the top of the backboard to leave Rickmansworth 1 – 0 down at half time.
After a short and punchy half time talk, which included some feedback from match analyst Emily Zamburlin, the team were ready to go. Rearranging the back field allowed James Martin, on loan for the match, to move to centre back with Harry Bird returning to his favoured right back - a position that led him to receive the award for young player of the season in 2017. Distribution from the back continued to threaten and penetrative passes from the veterans, Ali Smith and Andy ‘Mooro’ Moore began to find the sticks of the Rickmansworth forwards. Suddenly, the match was looking to take a turn as the momentum began to swing towards the away team and Berko were beginning to look increasingly uncomfortable. Almost accidentally, Nigel ‘the hitman’ Byng found himself moving further and further up the pitch as he looked to fill a gap in the formation and take on the centre forward role.
With the lion’s share of possession, Rickmansworth were able to frustrate their opposition and it wasn’t long until a Berkhamsted player was sent off for foul play. Despite being down to 10, the side were unable to capitalise and convert their significant possession into a goal. Although moves continued to flow with ease for the remainder of the match, the team wasn’t quite clinical enough in converting their chances and remained goalless for rest of the match. Showing plenty of promise and with lots to improve upon, the 1st XI will have their work cut out for them the following week as they get set to take on Southgate, a team who sailed through the league below and earned promotion the previous season.