By Nick Friend
After winning the double last year, the pressure is on Hatfield to attempt to replicate the sparkling form that saw them take home the Premiership and Floodlit trophies. On Saturday evening, they made light work of a tenacious St Mary’s outfit who never allowed the holders a moment’s rest.
Looking noticeably weaker in midfield following the graduation of two key stalwarts, Hatfield started slowly with both sides showing more than the occasional moment of rustiness in possession – an issue not helped by the Rubber Crumb’s bobbly inconsistency.
It was Hatfield who would take the lead with virtually their first attack – Nye Williams threading the ball through for Robbie Heald to roll into the bottom corner. Heald could have doubled his tally for the season almost immediately as he weaved past the impressive Charlie Brown and shot over. Alex Keating, on as an enforced early substitution, was next to try his luck – his dipping long-range strike being well tipped around the St Mary’s post by the outstanding Charlie Blanchard. That was about it as far as first half chances were concerned. A challenge midway inside the St Mary’s half was the only real other moment of excitement as three men on both sides were sent tumbling by a full-blooded bulldozing tackle from Sam Baldwin.
A change in system from Hatfield was to be the real game changer on this occasion. Exploiting the space wide on the right, Williams began to have a real influence on proceedings. He shot over before winning the corner that led to the game-sealing goal. Heald’s ball in was flicked on by Tom Robson before being rifled home by George Brown. Williams had chances to add gloss to the scoreline but it was Heald who came closest to increasing the Bailey College’s lead. His free kick rattled the top of the bar late on.
Overall, a decent game of football and a satisfactory start for both sides. Although restricted to very few opportunities by a solid backline, St Mary’s will feel aggrieved that their dogged chasing never lent itself to anything concrete in terms of clear-cut chances in front of goal. Hatfield look good for another tilt at the Premiership title although Collingwood’s convincing battering of John Snow serves as a reminder that competition will be mightily fierce.
Photograph: Chris Dearnley