Hemel Town encountered their first significant set-back of the season on Saturday as they went down 3-1 away to manager Sammy Moore’s old team Concord Rangers.
Concord were in 14th place in the table going into the National League South clash and had lost six of their last seven outings, while Hemel were sitting pretty in second place in the standings.
However, the Tudors were coming off a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to lowly Eastbourne Borough and that poor result was compounded on Saturday by their second-most convincing defeat of the season.
The surprising loss came at a cost to Hemel’s standing in the league, as they ceded second place in the standings for the first time since early September.
Results elsewhere meant Slough Town and Havant & Waterlooville stole a march on the Tudors, as Hemel slipped to fourth spot.
Havant moved above them by virtue of a superior goal difference, while Slough have played one more game.
There was added intrigue as the Tudors’ impressive new manager Moore, as well as a number of Hemel players, were returning to the club they represented last term.
Moore did a fine job in guiding Concord to a sixth-place finish in 2018/19, but due to the Canvey Island club failing to meet ground-size requirements, they were eventually barred from the play-offs.
Four days’ later, it was announced that Moore had stepped down from his role.
The now-Hemel gaffer predicted Saturday’s game would be a “fiery, edgy game” and the stage was set for Moore to return to the Aspect Arena with his high-flying new charges, but Hemel were caught cold and found themselves 2-0 down after only eight minutes.
A late onslaught from Hemel was too little, too late, as Concord ran out 3-1 winners.
The Tudors started the match poorly after conceding two goals in a two-minute span in the game’s first eight minutes.
With six minutes on the clock, a free-kick from Tom Clifford cannoned off the post and Aron Pollock reacted first to slot the ball past Tudors’ keeper Danny Boness.
Two minutes’ later Boness was picking the ball out of his net again after a shot from outside of the box crept pass the Hemel stopper.
It was a frustrating start to the game but Hemel responded by trying to stretch their opponents and they started to achieve some success as their wingers got more involved.
But with Hemel chasing the game, Concord were more than happy to sit back, put men behind the ball and play on the counter attack.
The hosts took the same tactic into the second period and the Tudors changed the system at the break, but were unable to break down a resilient Concord side.
A tempting cross from Alex Wall, one of many ex-Concord players now in the Hemel squad, was nearly converted by Liam Nash, but the midfielder’s header went the wrong side of the post.
Wall was making just his third start of the season in all competitions after being plagued with injury troubles.
Concord nearly extended the lead to 3-0 in the 71st minute after a good chance for Henry Woods, but Hemel bounced back two minutes’ later with defender Tosan Popo netting his first goal of the season to make it 2-1.
With a comeback seemingly on, Hemel threw everything at their opponents, but just couldn’t find the breakthrough.
It inevitably left Hemel open at the back and Concord capitalised to put the game out of reach in the 90th minute via a Joel Nouble strike.
It wasn’t to be Hemel’s day as they were unable to claw back the early two-goal deficit.
Saturday’s result will be a bitter pill to swallow for Moore and his Hemel staff and it was yet another stark reminder that any team is capable of beating any other in this extremely difficult league.
So far this term Hemel have responded well to any set-backs with a positive performance and the Tudor Army will be hoping for more of the same this weekend.
Moore said via his Twitter account on Monday: “New week, reaction needed.”
Hemel will hope to get back to winning ways this Saturday when they return home to Vauxhall Road to host Braintree Town.
The Iron are in ninth place in the table but have won only once in their last five league encounters.
The following Tuesday, November 12, then sees Hemel visit Essex Senior League side St Margaretsbury in the Hertfordshire Senior Cup.
Hemel’s line-up v Concord: Danny Boness, Tosan Popo, Craig Braham-Barnett, Jake Howells, Connor Essam (captain), Mitch Dickenson, Tyrone Sterling, Liam Nash, Munashe Sundire (Adam Cunnington,half-time), Alex Wall (Ricardo German, 68 mins), Sam Ashford (Isaac Galliford, 55 mins). Subs not used: Jack Midson, Sam Beasant.
n The weekend did end with a bang for Hemel with a fantastic fireworks display at Vauxhall Road on Sunday.