A trio of fine second half goals put Berkhamsted through to the last 64 of the FA Vase as they beat AFC Kempston Rovers 3-1 at Broadwater.
With Kempston unbeaten in the United Counties League all season, Berko knew this would be a tough game between two sides sitting third in their respective leagues.
Berko’s best chance in the first half fell to Josh Chamberlain when he stretched to meet a cross a few yards out, but his header went just over the bar.
There was controversy as the interval approached; a Rovers player broke into the home penalty area, where a Berko defender slipped and the ball touched his hand as he landed. The referee ruled it was deliberate handball, and Dom Marsala put the visitors in front from the spot.
Dale Sears came forward to net Berko’s second half equaliser, with the assistant referee denying an offside claim as the ball was already over the line before another player made sure it hit the net.
A nasty foul from behind meant Adiel Mannion had to limp off, and Aaron Nash-Barker came on for Berko.
Chamberlain then gave Berko the lead with a goal of true quality. He picked the ball up in his own half and dribbled round a few men before looking up to spot Martin Conway off his line. His shot from at least 35 yards out was the perfect height, just inches high enough to beat the keeper and inches low enough to sail in under the cross bar.
Buoyed by the goal, Berko continued to press – Steve Hawes fed Nash-Barker on the right wing and he cut inside and beat another couple of men before shooting into the far corner of the net past the diving Conway to make it 3-1.
Berko then introduced George Carbery and at the same time Vinny Shrieves came on for the visitors, but it was a short lived appearance as within a minute he head butted Carbery to get a red card.
Rovers did create some pressure, but the Berko defence were in no mood to let their grip go and charged down several shots at the Railway End, while Carl Tasker dealt with the few that got through as Berko held firm to clinch the win.
Berko: Tasker; Mead, Weeks, Baldry, Sears, Hawes, Jowle (Canham), Chamberlain (Carbery), Campana, Mannion (Nash-Barker), Carter. Subs not used: Ward & Towell.
Elsewhere, Berko’s Suburban League trip to North Greenford United fell victim to the weather and a waterlogged pitch.
On Saturday Berko go to Hoddesdon Town in an important fourth v third clash in the Premier Division of the Spartan South Midlands League. Lewis Rodrigoe will be able to return for Berko after suspension.
Next Tuesday, Berko are at home to Watford in the Herts Senior Cup in a game that should bring in a bumper gate to Broadwater.
Berko’s reserve side have an uphill task in the Suburban Challenge Cup when they are at home to Molesey Reserves, looking to pull back a 5-1 deficit from the first leg.