Tudors crash out of the FA Trophy in Eastbourne Borough goal-fest

Jamie Slabber, pictured in action earlier this season, netted for Hemel against Wealdstone. Picture (c) Terry Rickeard
Jamie Slabber, pictured in action earlier this season, netted for Hemel against Wealdstone. Picture (c) Terry Rickeard

Hemel Hempstead Town came out on the wrong end of an 11-goal FA Trophy first round thriller as they eventually succumbed to a 7-4 defeat at Eastbourne Borough.

Hemel went in at half-time trailing 3-0, before fighting back to briefly take the lead at 4-3 with 20 minutes to play - however joy son turned to despair for the Tudors as Eastbourne netted a further four times to book their place in the second round.

Hemel Town manager Dean Brennan. Picture (c) Terry Rickeard

Hemel Town manager Dean Brennan. Picture (c) Terry Rickeard

Hemel were able to field their first choice strike pairing, with Oliver Hawkins fit enough to return to the starting XI alongside leading scorer Jamie Slabber, but Ben Herd missed the game through suspension.

Hemel started the game playing against the strong wind swirling around the ground, but there was little to choose between the teams in the opening exchanges, with neither keeper tested in the first 10 minutes.

However, the game sparked into life after the quarter of an hour mark as Eastbourne stunned Hemel with two goals in as many minutes.

First, Jamie Butler saved at the feet of the onrushing Darren Lok, but the ball ricochetted off the unfortunate Zak Jules and into his own net, before Elliott Romain doubled the lead only a matter of seconds later as he finished from Gavin McCallum’s centre.

Things went from bad to worse for the beleaguered Tudors only two minutes later as McCallum and Romain combined again, with the latter finding the corner of Butler’s net for 3-0.

Hemel had the chance to reduce the deficit in the 27th minute when Slabber did well to round Borough keeper Lewis Carey, but Kieran Khinda-John was on hand to block the striker’s effort on the line.

Slabber tried his luck again with half-time approaching, but saw his shot blocked by Miguel Baptista; the Tudors bench was adamant a penalty should have been awarded for handball, but referee Elliott Kaye waved away the appeals.

At the other end, Romain continued to look dangerous, and only a brave, smothering save from Butler denied him a first half hat-trick.

Whatever Tudors boss Dean Brennan said to his side at half-time clearly provided them with renewed vigour as they reduced the deficit within a minute of the interval courtesy of a fine strike from Hawkins, who swivelled and fired into the top corner from Slabber’s cross.

And the comeback was well and truly on the cards in the 52nd minute as Hawkins made it 3-2 with a composed finish from close range after his initial header from Butler’s long free-kick was well saved by Carey.

With the wind in their sails, there was no stopping the rejuvenated Tudors and they were soon back on level terms as Hawkins teed up Zane Banton, who bamboozled the Borough defence before poking home via the crossbar to restore parity.

The travelling Tudor faithful were in wonderland with 72 minutes on the clock as Slabber received the ball in the box and kept his composure before slotting home to put his side ahead for the first time.

But Hemel’s joy was short-lived as Eastbourne got back on level terms with 77 minutes on the clock as McCallum poked home after a shot from Lok was spilled by Butler.

And it was soon despair once again for the Tudors as Eastbourne regained their lead on 80 minutes; Lok the beneficiary as Butler failed to hold on to a lofted cross into the box.

The goal-fest continued two minutes later as substitute Pinney latched on to a ball from McCallum and took his time before toe-poking the ball home off the far post to put the hosts back in control at 6-4.

There was still time for Slabber to crack a volley against the underside of the bar for Hemel, but Eastbourne added a seventh through substitute Jack Evans to triumph 7-4 in a topsy-turvy encounter and book their place in the second round of the competition.

Hemel Hempstead Town: 1 Jamie Butler, 2 Zak Jules, 3 Kyle Connolly, 4 James Potton, 5 Steve Watt (c), 6 Noor Husin (15 Ed Asafu-Adjaye, 79), 7 Zane Banton, 8 Michael Richens, 9 Oliver Hawkins, 10 Jamie Slabber, 11 Mo Shariff (12 Terrell Forbes, 34).

Subs not used: 14 Wilfried Gnahore, 16 Emmanuelson Duku, 17 Joseph Findlay-Bada.