The Tudors were minutes away from bouncing back from Saturday’s 3-0 defeat to grab bragging rights in the Bank Holiday local derby clash at Wealdstone today (Monday, August 28) until an 88th minute equaliser dashed their hopes of victory.
In front of a big crowd of 966 at Wealdstone’s Grosvenor Vale, it was a typically tight derby affair with the scores level 0-0 at half-time.
An injury to stalwart defender Ismail Yakubu in the 69th minute brought Callum Driver on to the field and the 24-year-old defender was the man on the spot to bundle home a corner just three minutes later to give Town the 1-0 lead.
But the hosts drew level with just two minutes of normal time left when a cross was put into the box, headed back across goal to Daniel Fitchett who stuck it in at the far stick.
Tudors’ boss Dean Brennan had announced his most re-jigged line-up of the season so far, no doubt due to the fact that this was their second game in the space of 72 hours.
The biggest surprise was seeing skipper Jordan Parkes named among the substitutes as striker Charlie Sheringham was given the captain’s armband.
Kyle Connolly made his first start of the season for Driver, James Kaloczi was brought back into the starting XI at the expense of Sam Hatton and Taylor Miles also made a return for loanee Rowan Liburd. Ben Greenhalgh was also recalled.
Hemel’s best chance of the first period came during injury time when Miles hit a perfect swinging effort from 25 yards which Stones’ keeper Jonathan North just finger-tipped onto the bar and clear.
Recent top-performer Laurie Walker made some top-draw saves in the Hemel goal again, denying Shaquille Hippolyte-Patrick in the 11th minute and 23rd minute.
The hot Bank Holiday weather saw two drinks breaks in the first-half alone as the players toiled in the heat.
Kaloczi carved out a few chances and headed over from a corner in the 50th minute but neither side was able to break the deadlock.
A set-piece looked the most likely method of gaining traction but several free-kicks either hit the wall or went off target.
Greenhalgh then hit a classy free-kick in the 71st minute toward the top corner but North again tipped it onto the bar and out for a corner.
After the Stones equaliser, Walker made a smart save from sub Matthew Whichelow which nearly snuck into the far post in the 91st minute and the netminder got down well again moments later to a Abobaker Eisa effort from the edge of the box.
The Tudors will no doubt feel gutted that they couldn’t hang on for the win, as the scores finished 1-1, just as they did at this ground last season.
They will also be hoping that the injury to the solid Yakubu, who had played every minute of every league game so far this term before today’s setback, will be nothing too serious.
Town remain in eighth place in the table after this point while Wealdstone, now winless in six games, are in 20th.
Next up for Hemel are Truro City at Vauxhall Road this Saturday. Truro won 2-1 against Weston-Super-Mare today and are one place higher in the National League South standings.
Hemel: Laurie Walker, Callum Driver, Joe Howe, Matt Spring, Tom Hamblin, Ismail Yakubu (Callum Driver, 69), James Kaloczi, Taylor Miles (Jordan Parkes, 70), Alex Osborn, Charlie Sheringham (captain) (Rowan Liburd, 87), Ben Greenhalgh. Subs not used: Jerome Federico, Danny Boness.
Referee: Josh Smith.