Berkhamsted claimed a major scalp as they downed previously unbeaten league leaders AFC Dunstable 2-1 in a tetchy encounter at Broadwater on Saturday.
Both teams were in splendid form going into this top of the table clash, and it was no surprise then that the match was a tense, cagey affair with both teams feeling each other out in the opening stages.
The first chance of the game fell to Berko when Jude Eboji’s slide rule pass sent top scorer Adiel Mannion through on goal, only to see the normally clinical striker hit the side netting from a tight angle.
Dunstable responded in kind and should have really done better after the Comrades defence let them get two free headers from successive corners; the first from Danny Ryan flying just wide, the second cannoning off the crossbar.
The away team threatened again minutes later when tricky winger Jordon Frederick’s snap shot in the area forced Carl Tasker into a smart save.
It was the home team that drew first blood, however, through Frankie Jowle. Mannion had forced Ricky Perks into a good save and, with the defence slow to respond to the rebound, Jowle showcased his predatory instincts and nipped in front of the slumbering defenders to slot the ball home.
The lead was no more than Berkhamsted deserved and they were desperately unlucky not to go into the break in front as AFC hit back through a controversial equaliser from Brandon Carney in first half injury time.
Carney looked to be offside as he chased Leon Cashman’s through-ball, however the flag was not forthcoming and he rounded Tasker to tap the ball into the net.
The second period of the match started much the same as the first, with few clear chances and lots of the ball being caught up in midfield.
If the game had been a largely scrappy affair, then it was lit up by a goal of real quality that saw Berkhamsted regain the lead.
Steve Hawes showed great tenacity to win the ball back just outside the area and his deft touch to Dan Weeks allowed the left -back to loft a delightful ball to Jowle on the right hand side.
Jowle cut inside, shifted the ball onto his left foot and sent a looping shot over the goalkeeper; it looked to be heading in but Josh Chamberlain made absolutely sure and nodded it over the line.
Dunstable pressed for an equaliser but they appeared quite toothless in the face of a resolute Berkhamsted defence.
It could have been so much more at the other end, however, with Berkhamsted spurning some good chances to do some real damage to the league leaders.
Eboji, full of excellent running all game, Jackson and Jowle all had opportunities to put daylight between themselves and the visitors.
The match was slightly soured at the end after an unsavoury incident in the Berkhamsted penalty box which saw Dunstable’s Danny Jones sent off for an elbow to the jaw, with Max Farrelly joining him for his part in the ensuing coming together of players.
Berko: Tasker, Farrelly, Weeks, Baldry, Sears, Rodrigoe, Jowle (Carbery), Hawes, Eboji, Mannion (Jackson), Chamberlain. Subs not used: Canham, Caines and O’Donovan.
There was a top versus bottom clash in the Suburban North division on Saturday and the honours were shared in a local derby.
Tring Athletic Reserves took the lead but Berko upset the form book to equalise through debutant Ashley Higgins and earn their first point of the season.
Berkhamsted have the chance to move into second place in the SSML Premier Division if they can leapfrog London Colney, who they visit on Tuesday.
The Comrades would be a point behind leaders AFC Dunstable with a game in hand if they can win.
On Saturday Berko are at home to ex-Spurs star Micky Hazard’s Hadley team. Haldey were the last team to beat Berko when they took advantage of an extra man when Tasker was sent off in a cup tie.
Berko’s reserve side play away to AFC Lemsford’s first team in the Herts Intermediate Cup, with a 1.30pm kick-off to cater for the possibility of extra-time and penalties.