A four point cushion now separates Blackheath and Old Elthamians from the chasing pack at the head of National League One, a gaping chasm by the standards of this season, but matches like this on a grey, dank afternoon at Silver Leys, against a side who now slip into relegation territory, serve to remind everyone just how well-matched all clubs are at this level.
The fact that Blackheath were able to leave Hertfordshire with a sense of relief was down to Joe Tarrant’s relatively easy strike at goal on 75 minutes, but that in itself was thanks to the mighty shove from Tom Williams, Mike Perks and Danny Herriott that forced the penalty from a scrum, only awarded because of a stricken Stortford player.
The remaining minutes saw Stortford throw everything at stretching Blackheath to find a weak spot, but the Club’s defence held its shape and discipline until ball was turned over and cleared to safety.
It wasn’t always thus. Blackheath had started positively, looking to prise apart Stortford who, despite their lowly position, boast the best defensive record in the league.
Tarrant opened the scoring with a penalty for holding on, before the visitors drove across the goal-line from a line-out, and although the ball was held up, the resultant five-metre scrum saw Henry Staff over from close-range.
However, a missed kick to touch allowed Stortford full-back Nick Hankin to counter, setting up a first penalty for Tom Banks, and although Tarrant quickly restored the ten-point advantage with another strike, a high tackle, a wayward defensive pass and infringement at the maul, allowed the Stortford scrum-half to kick the host side back within a point at 13-12 at the break.
The second period followed a similar pattern with Blackheath putting themselves under pressure through unforced errors, and the Club were fortunate when the otherwise excellent Banks missed with a 51st minute shot at goal.
Blackheath also let two attacking opportunities go to waste as their set-piece faltered and eventually, on 69 minutes, as the Club fell off-side, Banks’ fifth penalty nudged Stortford into the lead for the first and only time.
However, Blackheath’s scrum had been gaining ascendancy as the game progressed, and when the one final chance arose it was executed clinically.
Next Saturday Blackheath return to Well Hall to face Chinnor in their final home match of 2018. Kick is at 3 pm.
Pens: Banks 5
Pens: Tarrant 3
|12||Markus Burcham (Capt)|