The Comrades, as they are known, faced a home tie against mid-table Hertford Town knowing that a win could see them go top for the first time this season.
With the current deluge that has been affecting the majority of the country, I was quite sceptical of the game going ahead. This feeling was enhanced when, after checking Google maps, I noticed that one end of the ground is known as the canal end.
However, the SSML website showed that no pitch inspection was required, so off I went.
Car parking at the stadium itself is quite limited. However, just past the stadium is a car park that has more than adequate spaces for a normal match day. It was still raining when I arrived but, apart from the goalmouths, the pitch looked in pretty good condition.
The stadium has a covered seating area on the clubhouse side which also houses the snack bar. In front of the main stand are the dugouts. At either end of the ground, behind each goal, are covered standing areas. To the left of the main stand is the railway end which, of course, has the very busy London mainline running behind it. To the right is the aforementioned canal end. Both of these stands look to be of very similar construction, giving a nice symmetry to the ground. On the far side, opposite the main stand, is a very narrow walkway backed by a brick wall and gardens.
The ground is, what can only be described as tight, meaning that there is very little space between the playing surface and out of bounds. This leads to many clearances going out of the stadium confines completely. More of this later. This is not necessarily a bad thing though. The tightness of the ground adds to the atmosphere of the place and, if the supposed capacity of 2,500 was reached, would be quite a sight.
To the game. I decided to break with my normal tradition of watching matches from the side and take up a spot behind the canal end goal for the first half. This was the end that Berkhamsted were attacking and I was expecting them to come out all guns blazing. However, the first half, at least, turned into a quite even battle. Despite Berko having the ball in the net (denied by a correct flag) and having a penalty well saved by the visiting keeper, Hertford were still giving a good account of themselves. I did feel that the referee was not really letting the game flow at this point but, to be fair to him, he was being consistent so not too many complaints.
Just as it looked like we were going into the break goalless, Hertford broke away and grabbed a goal. So, at half-time the away team had the lead. 0-1.
Whatever they put in the tea at half-time certainly did the trick. Within a few minutes of the restart Berko fired in an equaliser and it wasn't too long before they went in front for the first time.
It was at this point that something happened that I had never seen at a game before. A ball was cleared out of the ground and when the referee signalled for another ball to be thrown on the response was that there were none left. Ball boys had been dispatched to all points around the ground to retrieve match balls but none had yet returned. Luckily a quick search of the store in then main stand revealed a new ball and the return of the ball boys averted any further delays.
Two more Berko goals effectively put the match beyond doubt with around 10 minutes to go. The turnaround proved too much for the Hertford manager who earned himself a red card for berating the referee (at least that is what it looked like from my standpoint).
Hertford did manage to pull one back but it was too little, too late for them. The final whistle blew and the stadium announcer told the 61 hardy souls present that the Comrades were top of the league for the first time this season.
All in all an enjoyable first venture into the Spartan South Midland League. Broadwater certainly has a certain something about it. Quite a quirky stadium with some old-style atmosphere to it.
Berkhamsted FC - @BerkoFC
Hertford Town - @HertfordTownFC