Superb second half not enough for Saffron Walden Town as they exit FA Vase to Berkhamsted

Jamie Solkhon. Picture: Jamie Pluck

Jamie Solkhon. Picture: Jamie Pluck - Credit: Archant

Saffron Walden Town failed to repeat last season’s record-breaking FA Vase run this campaign, going down 3-2 to 10-man Berkhamsted in the third round at Catons Lane.

The Bloods were aiming to reach the fourth round for the second season in a row, their best-ever foray in the national competition, and in front of a stellar crowd of 323, they were quietly optimistic.

However, both sides were plagued by the gusty conditions which had left Walden 2-0 down at the break.

Steve Hawes’ special in the 23rd minute, turning on the edge of the box and curling sweetly beyond the helpless Floyd Croll, was backed up by Adam Mead’s penalty three minutes before half-time. Paul Abbot was harshly adjudged to have booted Alex Campana’s ankle with referee Christopher Francis deeming it illegal.

With the stiff breeze behind them in the second period, Walden came out all guns blazing immediately and found a way back into the game.

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James Thomas, two-goal hero at Newmarket Town in Thurlow Nunn Premier Division action eight days prior, snuck in at the far post to turn home the loose ball.

The home side’s ray of hope was spectacularly extinguished three minutes later as Tom Carter bent a left foot effort into the top corner to restore the two-goal lead. No chance again for Croll.

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Walden surged back and gave themselves another lifeline with 28 minutes to go. Matt Snelling’s pullback picked out Jamie Solkhon and he couldn’t miss.

From looking like it might have turned into a mid-winter stroll for the Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division side, their backs were up against the wall in the final quarter with chances aplenty for Walden.

Somehow great opportunities for Graeme Turner, who saw his 25-yarder tipped over the bar by keeper Jack Smith, and Snelling, guilty of crashing a shot over the bar, went astray and the hosts could not find the vital equaliser.

Hawes picked up a second yellow card for a tangle with Solkhon on the near touchline in added time but Berkhamsted weren’t to be denied a place in the last 32.

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