Hemel Town started their campaign in dashing fashion with an exciting 4-2 win at home against Chippenham Town today (Saturday).
It was the perfect start to the new National League South season for Hemel but Chippenham also contributed to what was a fantastic advertisement for non-league football on a glorious sunny day at Vauxhall Road.
The Tudors took the lead after just five minutes when one of boss Dean Brennan’s new signings, Steve Cawley, superbly controlled a long through ball from keeper Laurie Walker before unselfishly laying it off to his strike partner Karl Oliyide on the edge of the box. The 23-year-old made no mistake, curling the ball past Will Puddy in the visitors’ goal.
Skipper Jordan Parkes almost doubled Hemel’s lead after 10 minutes but his free-kick crashed against the post and was cleared.
It all looked ominous for Chippenham but slowly and surely they weathered the early storm and started to create chances of their own. The warning signs were there when Natt Jarvis fired wide moments after Parkes had hit the post and they enjoyed a prolonged spell of possession after this.
They deservedly got back into the game on 25 minutes when the excellent Karnell Chambers raced clear after a great through pass split Hemel’s back-line and he slotted home past a stranded Walker.
Chambers then put Chippenham in front minutes later, arriving at the back post unmarked from a corner that had been carelessly conceded by The Tudors. The resulting cross was missed by everyone and Chambers just waited for it to arrive before calmly picking his spot.
This set-back seemed to wake Hemel from their slumbers and they stepped up a gear as the half drew to a close. They struck the woodwork for a second time when Scotty Shulton clipped the bar after debutant Cawley did well to set him up.
Shortly after this it should have been game over when a run and cross down the right from Chippenham’s Curtis McDonald was met by Jarvis, but his powerful header from only six yards out was somehow kept out by Walker, who reacted superbly to block the effort.
With the game now end-to-end The Tudors took advantage of this escape and some good work by Parkes down the left saw him lay the ball off to Oliyide and this time it was his turn to set up Cawley, who slammed the ball home to level the scores at 2-2.
Hemel came out of the blocks much quicker in the second period, clearly buoyed by the late equaliser in the first-half and they went back in front after 48 minutes when the impressive Oliyide drove into the box and placed his shot past Puddy via the far post.
The visitors weren’t finished, though, and they created and missed a number of further opportunities. Oliyide had another chance to really put the game to bed but his header was brilliantly kept out by a finger-tip save from Puddy.
Then with 88 minutes on the clock the inevitable happened. As Chippenham pushed forward in search of the equaliser, Hemel sub Alex Osborn broke clear, he raced away from the half-way line and as keeper Puddy closed him down he placed the ball past him only to see it crash off the inside of the post. But Osborn kept a cool head as defenders chased back and he blasted home the rebound to secure the three points for the Tudors.
At the end of the day Chippenham can feel slightly aggrieved at coming away with nothing to show for their efforts but Hemel did just enough to claim the points for the perfect start.
Next up for the lads is a trip to Hampton and Richmond Borough on Tuesday night. They started their campaign with a point on the road at Slough Town. Last year the Tudors beat them 1-0 at home and drew 0-0 away.
Hemel Hempstead Town v Chippenham: Laurie Walker, Joe Howe, Kyle Connolly, Jordan Parkes (captain), Ismail Yakubu, Darren Ward, James Kaloczi, Scotty Shulton (Spencer McCall, 64 mins), Karl Oliyide (Alex Osborn, 76 mins), Steve Cawley, Herschel Sanchez Watt (Tom Hamblin, 73 mins). Subs not used: Tom Day, George Paulin
Mitch’s star man: Karl Oliyide.