Hemel Hempstead Town have secured their place in the Evo-Stik League Southern Premier Division play-offs after a thumping 4-1 win over Bideford on the last game of the season.
The Tudors knew that only a win would be good enough to be sure of a top-five place, and they duly bagged the three points to set up a mouth-watering play-off semi-final at Chesham United tomorrow night.
Hemel manager Dean Brennan, though, insists he was confident his side would make it into the play-offs all along.
“I wouldn’t say I was too relieved to be honest,” he said. “We’ve been scoring goals and I believed in the lads all along.
“We played with an excellent tempo and played some good football, and the lads’ work-rate was excellent.”
Brennan, however, knows that his team are in for a difficult match against his former club Chesham.
“We finished way short of the points total we set ourselves at the start of the season but it sets up a great game on Tuesday,” he said.
“Chesham are on a fantastic run, 18 games unbeaten, but it’s cup football now and it’s just down to what happens on the day and who gets that bit of luck.
“It doesn’t really mean anything special to me going back to one of my old clubs.”
The Tudors will certainly be buoyed by their win against Bideford, which saw them control the majority of the game.
The home side made most of the running in the first half and took the lead after 12 minutes when Matt Nolan scored from close range – meeting a free-kick after Dave Pearce had been brought down on left of the box.
On the half hour mark, Bideford’s Matt Andrew was sent off for a late tackle on Pearce, but this seemed to spur the visitors on and they started to see more of the ball.
Despite this it was Hemel who missed the best chance of the half when Nolan somehow managed to clear the bar from a yard out after Alex Campana had set him up.
Any thoughts of the Tudors having it easy against ten men were dispelled just before half-time when Richard Groves capitalised on some slack defending to equalise with a shot across Sam Beagle into the far corner to score with Bideford’s first real opportunity.
Hemel almost made the perfect start to the second half when Nolan met Campana’s cross two minutes in, but his header was tipped over by Tim Sandercombe in the visitors’ goal.
Soon afterwards, another jinking run by the impressive Campana saw him fire the ball across the face of the goal, where Ryan Charles arrived at the back post to score to the relief of the Tudor faithful.
Moments later, another cross from the right was met by Nolan who headed back to Pearce to fire home for 3-1, and the Tudors made sure of the win when Nolan rose to meet Danny Talbot’s corner to score the fourth.