Eric Hand Challenge Cup Round One

Three Third Division sides inflicted upsets on Second Division opponents as the Watford Sunday League’s Eric Hand Challenge Cup got underway.

With Premier Division clubs and most of the First Division sides given byes, the focus was on the lower ranked sides, and Batchworth caused the biggest upset by beating ER FC 5-2.

It was Batchworth’s first win in this competition at the fourth attempt and their victory owed much to their new forward partnership of Dean Alexander and Mikel Walsh.

Having already gone close twice early on in the game, they went ahead when Walsh was fouled in the area and the resulting penalty was smashed home by Alexander.

A second goal soon followed when Walsh set up his partner through to run clear and slot home, but just before the break ER pulled one back through a Daniel Burke penalty.

This didn’t knock Batchworth out of their stride though, and Alexander completed his hat-trick after the break when he headed home a Luke Parry cross.

Walsh then got on the scoresheet before ER pulled another goal back though Chris Wells, but the upset was sealed when Alex Hollis netted after a swift counter-attack.

Batchworth will now face another of the Third Division sides who caused an upset, Woodside Wanderers, in the next round after they defeated Chess United 3-1.

Connor Powell, Tiago Silva and Tom Carter were on target with Chess replying through Nelson Pequeno.

The third side to cause a shock were Skyline who knocked out Woodlands United 1984 3-2 after scoring the winner two minutes from time.

Laurence Manning (2) and Shoaib Ali scored Skyline’s goals, with Matt Bower and Liam Laverick responding.

Watford Athletic scored four times against Oxhey Spartans but it was nowhere near enough to get the win as the home side struck 12 times.

Jordan Aston-Woods struck a double hat-trick, Ben and Rob Silva both scored braces and Abbas Khan and Michael Orsmand grabbed one apiece. Daniel Walsh, Alfie Dibble, Evan Quinn and Connell Russell got the Athletic goals.

Dome Bar beat Bennetts End Rovers 8-1 thanks to a Benjamin Kelly hat-trick, a Nathan Pooley double and singles from Steve Noonan, Adam Finn and Joe Manfredini. Kwabena Oppong got the Bennetts End reply.

Victoria put six unanswered goals past RBL Croxley, Jamaine Botchey with three and a goal each for James Farrell, Charlie Wharton and Michael Wood.

The all-Third Division tie between White Horse and Sun Sports saw the away side come back from 2-0 down to win 3-2.

Daniel Moss’ double and one from Daniel Flanagan sealed the comeback after two goals from Nelson Gomes had put the home side in the driving seat.

The two First Division sides playing at this stage, Ardent and AFC Leavesden, enjoyed home wins over Third Division opposition.

Ardent were given a tough test by SOCA and had goalkeeper George Rawlings to thank for two fine saves to prevent them from falling behind.

Charlie Salvage gave Ardent the lead just before the break, and this was doubled in the second half when Greg Clark found himself unmarked in the box to fire home. SOCA pulled a deserved goal back late on through Tyler Connor.

AFC Leavesden had a slightly easier morning with a 4-1 with over Hertfordshire Eagles.

Lucas Halligan converted a penalty to open the scoring and he then set up Jack Carter to score from close range soon after Eagles pulled one back just before half-time through Austin Ford.

Alieu Gibril headed in the third before a long-distance effort from Tom Bourke sealed the win.

A single goal from Tom Harris was enough for ACS Milan to see off the challenge of Ricky AFC.

Premier Division

FC Unicorn had a dream start to life in the top-flight with an impressive 3-1 away victory over last season’s third-placed side Rifle Volunteer.

Unicorn went ahead in the first minute when a long ball from the kick off was challenged by Jack Bishop. It fell to Jamie Calvin who linked up with Danny Warwick to then fed Bishop and he volleyed into the bottom corner from 12 yards out.

Rifle had the majority of the ball but were kept at bay before their opponents doubled the lead when a corner was swung in, Chrishan Casey headed against the crossbar but he reacted quickest to nod in the rebound.

Volunteer again had more possession after the break, but with 20 minutes to go Calvin laid the ball off to Luke Habbijam who brought it down and fired home.

Andy Lomas grabbed a consolation two minutes from time as a scramble in the box from a free-kick fell to him 10 yards out and he found the bottom corner.

Fellow new boys Tudor Athletic have also enjoyed a strong start and they made it two wins out of two with a 5-0 win over St Josephs.

Tudor had a little bit of good fortune for the opening goal 10 minutes before the break when James Fisher’s free-kick took a wicked deflection, wrong-footing the Joes keeper.

Athletic were more clinical in the second half, with Spencer Bellotti scoring twice and one apiece for Mike Varcoe and Phil Ifil.

Bellotti’s former club Oakview also made it two wins out of two with a 4-1 victory over Evergreen.

An under-strength Evergreen side battled hard in the opening half-an-hour, although their opponents struck the woodwork four times before finally taking the lead through Luke Lloyd. Lee Armitt then doubled their advantage on the stroke of half-time.

Evergreen pulled a goal back early in the second period from the penalty spot when Ollie Cripps converted the rebound after his first effort had been saved. But it was Oakview who sealed the win with further goals from Lewis Putman and Taylor Cobb.

Reed Rangers also made it back-to-back victories with a 9-3 win over Old Fullerians.

Rangers had built up a 6-0 lead early in the second half before Fullerians battled back with three quick-fire goals.

Charlie Hailey finished off a Craig Totton corner that dropped in the box, and Hailey then got his second with a neat finish into the bottom corner from the left side of the box following a Totton through ball. Riccardo Manfredi finished Fullers’ scoring when he guided in a Hailey cut back from a Totton free-kick.

But it was Reed who finished the stronger with three more goals before the end. Bradley Sweeney led the way with a hat-trick, supported by two from Nick Kerley and singles from Daniel Taylor, Dom David, Karl Penny and Chris Colman.

Division One

Maple Cross and Bushey Rangers are the early pacesetters at the top of the division after both claimed their second wins.

After a goalless first half, Fox struck the crossbar before their opponents missed a penalty. But Cross were awarded a second spot-kick which was converted by Nathan Davis.

Trent Skapetis then added a second before the home side pulled a goal back late on from Alex Witham.

Bushey Rangers were also triumphant, beating Langleybury CC 2-0.

The game was goalless for an hour before Stephen King played a free-kick into the area where Hayden Smith rose highest and beat the goalkeeper to the ball to crash a header into the net.

It became an end-to-end contest thereafter with both sides going close.

Bushey hit the same post twice while Langleybury hit the crossbar on two occasions and were denied by some good stops from keeper Gary Brindley.

However deep in injury time Bushey broke down the right and the ball was crossed for Gary Yerby to slot home.

Everett Rovers convincingly overcame AFC Bedmond 6-1 after goals from Reece Cameron, Jake Knight and a smart finish from Ross O'Flynn saw them go into the break 3-0 to the good.

Second-half goals from Barry Mitchell, Knight and Meshach Williams made it 6-0 before Edison Mikoshi netted a late consolation for Bedmond.

Cassiobury Rangers beat West Herts 4-2 thanks to goals from Connor Callahan, Rob Ladmore, Jack Henley and Taylor Osunsedo. Aaron Eager and Tom Smith replied for the Stags.

North Watford edged out FC Woodside 3-2 after seemingly being in control with three goals in the opening 15 minutes of the second half through Anton Robinson’s brace and one for Omar Vassell,

But Woodside staged a fight back with goals from Donovan Lewis and Callum Hailey.

Lewis then thought he had equalised late on but it was ruled out for offside.

Division Two

The only game in the division saw the two relegated sides from last season go head-to-head, with Croxley running out 5-2 winners over Bushey Sports Club.

Leigh Parr scored a hat-trick for the victors, with Samba and Luke Dolan netting their other two. Rob Gradwell got both of the visitors’ goals.