Berkhamsted 6 London Lions 0
BERKHAMSTED got off to a flying start to the 2011/12 season with a 6-0 thrashing of London Lions in their first competitive game of the campaign.
Lawrence Bunker netted a hat-trick, and further goals from Aaron Usmani (2) and Joe Gallagher did the damage to secure the Comrades’ progression into the Herts Charity Cup quarter-finals.
Manager Mick Vipond’s decision to test his side with difficult pre-season friendlies looked to be a masterstroke as Berko showed the fitness and sharpness needed to dismantle their opponents.
“It was a very pleasing start to the season,” said Vipond. “We have had some very tough tests over pre-season which is what I wanted.”
“We’ve pretty much had things all our own way over the last two years but now we are stepping up into a league where things are going to be tougher.
“The performance on Saturday was exactly what I wanted and we got to grips with things well.”
Berko started the game brightly and almost took the lead as Bunker saw his headed effort cannon back off the crossbar – but it did not take the Comrades man long to get on the scoresheet.
With eight minutes gone, Berko were awarded a penalty following a stray elbow at a Lewis Toomey corner, and Bunker stepped up to dispatch the resulting spot-kick and put his side in front.
The Comrades doubled their lead 10 minutes before half-time, courtesy of Usmani’s low strike past visiting keeper Danny Berliner, before Bunker was successful from the spot again after Matt Wardle was fouled in the penalty area.
Berkhamsted started the second half as they had finished the first, and Bunker had the chance to complete a hat-trick of penalties, but blasted the ball over the bar.
He made amends soon after, though, heading home his third after good work from Toomey and new signing Russell Clark.
Vipond made two changes immediately after the goal, and substitute Gallagher marked his debut with Berko’s fifth goal as he curled the ball home.
Usmani wrapped up the scoring with another crisp, low drive late on, to send Vipond’s side into the season full of confidence following last campaign’s promotion into the MSSML Premier Division.
The manager, however, insists he is not looking too far ahead.
“We’re going to take things as they come,” he said. “The priority is for us to avoid going straight back down but I think we have enough about us to do that.”
“The season is a long one and we will wait and see what happens.”
Vipond is adamant, though, that the side are ready for Saturday’s opening league fixture, at home to London Tigers.
“We’ve played the Lions and now we have the Tigers,” he said. “They are a good footballing side with some physical strength and we are ready for the test.”