Hemel Hempstead Town produced a dramatic last-gasp comeback to earn a valuable point against fierce rivals St Albans City at Clarence Park last night.
St Albans had taken the lead through Mark Nwokeji before former Saint Lewis Toomey headed Hemel level shortly before half-time.
The Tudors were reduced to 10 men midway through the second half as Danny May was dismissed for a reckless tackle, and St Albans looked to have won the game when John Frendo tapped home.
Hemel did not give up though, and another former St Albans man, Moussa Diarra, pounced at the death to hand the Tudors a valuable point.
Hemel had gone into the game on the back of 10 consecutive league wins which has catapulted them to the top of the Calor League Southern Premier Division table.
They knew they were in for a tough game against their Hertfordshire rivals, though, and this was demonstrated with just 10 minutes played as Tudors keeper Laurie Walker produced an excellent point-blank save, only for Nwokeji to pick up the ball from the rebound and fire home.
Clearly buoyed by the goal, St Albans began to dominate the game, but the hosts squandered a number of decent opportunities to double their advantage and were made to pay for their profligacy in the 44th minute.
Hemel had looked dangerous from set-pieces throughout the half, and they duly bagged the equaliser as David Hutton swung in a free-kick and Toomey was on hand to head home powerfully from six yards out.
Despite the equaliser, Hemel boss Dean Brennan clearly had some strong words for his team after their lacklustre first half display, and the Tudors came out with renewed vigour after the break.
Hemel were starting to boss the game, but that changed with 20 minutes to play when May was penalised for a strong challenge on Saints midfielder Richard Graham.
The ball was there to be won, but May’s challenge left Graham writhing on the ground and, after some deliberation, the referee showed the Hemel right-back a straight red card.
That swung the momentum back in St Albans’ favour and the hosts looked to have the game won when Fremdo was left with a tap-in after a mistake at the back from Kieran Murphy.
Hemel were not about to let their unbeaten run end without a fight, though, and it was left to Diarra to head home the equaliser with just seconds left to the delight of the travelling Tudor faithful.
Next up for Brennan’s men is another huge game as they look to qualify for the first round proper of the FA Cup against Conference outfit Sutton United. 3pm kick-off at Vauxhall Road.