Report by Andy Stocks
Yes, this was the Herts Senior Cup final and was played over at Herts FA headquarters in Letchworth.
This was my first visit to Letchworth, and I had been warned that the ground was a disappointment, so I was ready for a rather dodgy place, marginally better than Northwood. I was pleased to arrive in one piece after a hairy moment when one women decided she was going to try and ram me off the A405, but I won't go into that. From the outside the ground looked pleasant enough, a nice new building, clean and tidy etc. Once I was through the turnstile I was quite surprised by what I saw. There was one fair sized stand, and nothing else. The facilities also left a lot to be desired. The food van was really rather dreadful. The service was very slow, tea was cold, coffee was dreadful, as for food, I thought better of it.
I haven't even mentioned the pitch yet. One Watford player, who will remain unnamed, walked over and said "this is the worst pitch I've ever played on". It was terribly uneven, very hard and dusty, and to be honest I've played on better down the park. Am I being too harsh? I think not. This is the headquarters of football in Hertfordshire, it's meant to be a flagship for grounds locally. Surely the least they could do is have a half-decent pitch. Northwood is far from perfect, but I like it. The pitch is okay, the food van is legendary (well, to me it is) and there is more cover if it rains. I would prefer Northwood every time.
Anyway, onto the game. We lined up as follows:-
Chris Day 3, Nigel Gibbs 4, David Perpetuini 3, Adrian Bakalli 2, Keith Millen 3, Colin Pluck 2, Johann Gudmundsson 4, Tommy Smith 5, Allan Smart 2, Alexandre Bonnot 4, Lee Johnson 3.
Subs:- Gary Fiskin 3 (for Johnson), Stephen Brooker 5 (For Smart) and Matthew Langston (not used).
Attendance approx. 250 (sorry, have not passed the Rupe school of excellence as far a crowd counting is concerned)
A few youngsters were thrown in there, along with a few experienced pros. I'm sure the forthcoming match against Grimsby had something to do with one or two of the personnel playing, or not playing, whatever way you want to look at it. I'm sure Graham Taylor doesn't want to take any risks with players getting injured, so he made one or two unavailable. Well, that's my theory anyway.
The game started off with Borehamwood clearly looking to get stuck in with a very physical style of play. This clearly suited the pitch as that didn't help when we tried to pass the ball around. It was Watford that had a couple of early chances following good play from the ever-improving Tommy Smith.
Borehamwood took the lead following a corner, which should have been a free kick, but was one of many dubious decisions made by the referee and linesman during the first half. Now I don't know who scored the goal, as it was by the chap who was playing in place of the player recently awarded 'Worst ever Watford player'...yes, Kerry Dixon. I really did want to see him play, and was disappointed that the threat of the bailiffs actually catching up with him had kept him away, or perhaps it was because the Ref was a copper.
We equalised following another wonderful move involving Smith, who just seemed to be at the centre of all our meaningful attacks. After laying the ball off, he ran into the area, a tackle flew in, but the ball fell for Smith who put it away.
Their second was a result of the Ref blowing for a free-kick that never was, then telling them to wait. Borehamwood didn't wait, took it, charged down the pitch and got their second. It was, however, an excellent lob from about 25 yards which just eluded Day.
A third followed right on the stoke of half-time. The ball was put across menacingly, Pluck tried to head it over, but it hit the bar and bounced down onto the line. Now I was well positioned for this, being at the side, and would swear that it never crossed the line, it didn't even look close to me, but the dodgy linesman thought otherwise. The players looked equally surprised and Don just went mental. As the ref walked off, Don shouted 'That was a very dodgey decision Ref'. To my amazement the ref looked across in my general direction and started ranting, then said 'Which one?', which said it all as far as I was concerned. He was right, there were many dubious decisions in that first half. Some of the players came up and asked me if I thought it had crossed the line as they were also convinced it hadn't.
So, half time and we were 3-1 down, somewhat unfairly. Tommy Smith had been excellent, Gibbsy and Millen were as dependable as ever, Bonnot was also excellent.
The second half was rather better. The linesman in front of us now was a really decent chap. He often exchanged a few words with us, and joked about things happening on the pitch, but more importantly appeared to get every decision right. See, I can be nice to officials!! He was clearly enjoying himself, the way it should be.
Again, Smith and Bonnot impressed. Gibbs and Johann also made good ground down the right and swung in some fine crosses, especially Gibbsy, unfortunately, Smart and Johnson didn't appear to be on top of their games, or were well marked, so litte came of them.
We managed to get one goal back, and it was a cracker. Johann was out wide on the right, just inside the touchline, about 5 yards outside the 18 yard box. He managed to cleverly chip the keeper with an exquisite shot. No mistake, this was sheer class.
With the intoduction of Gary Fiskin and Stephen Brooker we now looked much more dangerous. I've seen Stephen Brooker on a couple of occasions, and he had impressed me then, but he has improved. He is very strong, and knows how to use this strength, he has a bit of pace, and is good in the air, but he also hits the ball very hard. One shot was hit with Johnno-esqe venom which just zipped over the bar. This guy is good, he looks like a more traditional centre forward, as opposed to a goal poacher, but if he can do that too, then he could be really good. I look forward to watching him again.
Adrian Bakalli is very big. I've seen him play before a few times, with very differing results. Today was one of the less impressive displays. For a tall guy he loses out a lot in the air, whereas Bonnot who is a lot smaller looked good in the air. Basically Bakalli had some good touches, but looked to be out of position rather a lot, and a bit hesitant. Still, at least there is some promise there. I feel that I must also mention Chris Day. He is an excellent keeper, somewhat unfortunate to be beaten by a wonderful lob for their second, but has been improving all season. Make no mistake, if Alec Chamberlain didn't keep such high standards, Chis Day would be in there immediately, he is good.
Pluck had a dodgy one, he's usually far better, he just looked hesitant. Perpetuini did well, but can play better than he did in this match.
Well, that's how it ended 3-2 to Borehamwood, and they take the Herts Senior Cup for only their second time.
Congratulations to those brave souls that have read all this, but I do like to write a bit about those players that aren't in our first team much, just to raise people's awareness about them.