Match Report
Radley College 3rd XI vs  Berkhamsted School Boys-U18D
On: Saturday, 23 Mar 2024
Venue: at Home

Berkhamsted 4th XI arrived with a strong season behind them, so we knew it would be tough to maintain our unbeaten record on Sug 2. Furthermore, we lost our goalkeeper (George Pilkington) up to the 2nds with less than 48 hours to kick-off. After much last minute diplomacy and head-scratching, Kyle Chan from the 5ths became the 27th player to join the 3rds this season, replacing the 25th, Henry Redmayne, who manfully lasted a couple of hours during a shooting practice on Friday evening before sustaining an elbow injury (must have been one of Coke’s shots!). In the selection tumult, Ed Mackarness stepped in from the 4ths as the perfect utility substitute.

And so the match began with the core of regular 3rds trying to finish the season on a high…..

Ben Campion won the toss and elected to play into the ‘one-goal-advantage’ wind and low sun. We started strongly and refused to let Berkhamsted settle on the ball. Will Tiang was having his best match so far, tenacious in the tackle, combining very well with Lawrence Coke in central midfield. We faced a couple of testing corners, but Kyle made some solid stops, defence rallying round to protect him. We were heading towards half time looking the more likely winners, when we conceded a free kick 40 yards out. The well flighted delivery found a striker who managed to control, turn and finish very tidily for 0-1. This unlocked a positive response and Campion fired millimetres wide from inside the area. Chances were coming. And corners. But we couldn’t find the target or the final ball.

With the wind, at the start of the second half, we bombarded the Berkhamsted goal, pressing them high and creating chances. Wade hit a post, Campion hit a screamer en route to the back of the net, that hit Wade(!). Eventually, Nokes fed Campion from the left and Ben penetrated the penalty box and buried his low shot into the far corner. 1-1! Charlie Appleton then burst into the box, dribbling at speed before skying his shot from 5 yards! Would we get a better chance to seize victory?

Perhaps inevitably, Berkhamsted then gradually got back into the game. But Toby Waller and Billy Barlow (notching up his record as the only player to play every minute of every 3rds game this term) dealt with all the threats with great decision-making, speed and physicality, helped especially by Mac Ngernak at right back. At this stage it still looked like we would go on to win. But we were vulnerable from set plays, including several corners. Then, with 10 minutes left, we conceded from another well-flighted free kick. This time, it was closer and fearing it would beat Chan, Toby rose to head it but only managed to divert it just beneath the cross bar. Behind again….!Berkhamsted suddenly played with new-found confidence and looked like being able to manage the game to full time. Frequent queries to the ref (KAM) about time left…… 3 minutes, 2, into the last minute….

But then, chasing an unlikely through ball, Charlie Appleton accelerated and beat the keeper to the ball, before keeper, Apples and the ball ended up in a heap…. Seconds passed. Then a decisive point to the spot. Penalty! In the last minute. Some argy-bargy…. Wade stepped up. And the match was saved!

Fitting that we got one marginal refereeing decision, after suffering against Marlborough, Abingdon and Reading Bluecoat.

Fitting that Hector Wade should smash the back of the net, for his 15th goal this season. A remarkable haul.

And fitting that the 6th and final match on Sug 2, the real home of the mighty 3s, saw us unbowed and unbeaten. And playing the most joyful of football.

Huge thanks to all 27 3rds players this season. And their loyal parent supporters.

You played with an enduring identity, with character and class. Ben was a great leader. But he had a core of legends to work with who stuck it out with him (in some cases, only as long as it took to gain promotion to the 2s!): Keepers: George and Matteo; Back four: Hector V, Max, Billy, Toby; Midfield engine room: Louis, Lawrence, Will, Archie N, Hugo (briefly), Mac (latterly); Further up: Charlie, Archie R, and the inimitable Hector W.

It has been a real pleasure to coach you!