VERDICT: Super Steelmen move back to the top
Corby Town moved back to the top of the BetVictor Southern League Division One Central table as they ended Berkhamsted’s unbeaten start with a 3-2 success at Steel Park.
It proved to a highly entertaining top-of-the-table clash with the Steelmen going 2-0 up, only to be pegged back by the morning leaders before winning it thanks to a goal from new signing Ryan Robbins.
Top scorer Steve Diggin was still missing for the Steelmen due to a knee injury while Robbins started on the bench.
The visitors settled the better in the early exchanges and there was a heart in the mouth moment when Alastair Worby charged from his goal with Jonathan Lacey lifting the ball over him before seeing his final effort deflected wide.
Lacey went close again when Josh Chamberlain threaded a ball through but the forward’s shot was off target.
Little was seen of the Steelmen as an attacking force in those early stages but they burst into life by taking the lead on 27 minutes.
Captain Jake Duffy floated a free-kick into the area, Joe Burgess met it with a firm header which Xavi Comas Leon tipped onto the underside of the crossbar but Charlie Wise showed tremendous desire to react the quickest and head home the loose ball.
That was the spark the game needed.
Berkhamsted almost produced an immediate response with Lewis Toomey heading over at the near post when he probably should have done better.
Corby went close to a second soon after. Callum Westwood cut in from the right and saw his left-footed effort come back off the post before James Ireland’s follow up was cleared off the line by Ryan Kinnane.
However, the lead was doubled in the next attack. Duffy was the creator as his excellent through-ball released Burgess in the area and he made no mistake with an emphatic low finish.
To their credit, Berkhamsted responded well and Kinnane saw a header tipped over by Worby before the visitors did pull a goal back before the break.
Will Summerfield sent a corner to the far post and Stephen Hatch had the simple task of nodding in from close-range.
Summerfield saw a free-kick blocked by the wall after Gary Mulligan was adjudged to have hauled down Toomey in the visitors’ next attack and Berkhamsted started the second half brightly with Mulligan producing an excellent challenge to deny Toomey as he shaped to shoot.
But the visitors did draw level just before the hour mark when Matt Cooper raced on to a pass and beat Worby with a low shot.
By that time, Robbins had entered the fray in place of Elliot Sandy who had been carrying a knock throughout the week.
And the new signing soon made a decisive mark on the game.
A driving run ended with Robbins seeing a low shot turned round the post by Comas Leon.
But, from the resulting corner, Robbins was there to score from close-range after another Duffy delivery had been headed on.
Berkhamsted did their best to find another way back after that but, when they did create a couple of openings, Worby produced two fine saves to keep them out.
Aside from that, Corby did an impressive job with their game management as they saw things out without any further scares.
When the final whistle sounded, the roar from the near-500 crowd told the story.
It felt like a big day. Corby are back on top, now they need to stay there...
Steelmen: Worby; Hartley, Wise, Mulligan, Warburton; Duffy, Burgess; Westwood (sub Dean, 85 mins), Ireland (sub Ling, 72 mins), Crawford; Sandy (sub Robbins, 56 mins). Subs not used: Carpenter, Parsons.
Berkhamsted: Comas Leon; Akubuine (sub Morrissey, 87 mins), Kinnane, Hatch, Cooper; Spaul, Farrelly (sub Witham, 70 mins); Summerfield (sub Hercules, 63 mins), Chamberlain, Lacey; Toomey. Subs not used: Murphy, Amu.
Referee: Alastair Nelson.
Goals: Wise (27 mins, 1-0), Burgess (32 mins 2-0), Hatch (40 mins, 2-1), Cooper (59 mins, 2-2), Robbins (63 mins, 3-2).
Bookings: Mulligan, Westwood, Farrelly, Spaul (all fouls), Hercules (deliberate handball), Robbins (time-wasting).
The Raj (www.therajrestaurant.net) man-of-the-match: Joe Burgess - you could have flipped a coin between Burgess and his midfield sparring partner Jake Duffy. Both were outstanding as they covered every blade of grass and played key roles in the Steelmen’s goals. Burgess grabbed the second goal himself, after being played in by Duffy. And both showed calm heads in the latter stages, playing their part in some excellent game management to see the game out.