Hemel’s visit to last year’s non-League FA Cup darlings Sutton
United for a pre-season friendly on Saturday finished with The Tudors snatching a well-earned win near the end.
The victory came thanks to a superb Ben Greenhalgh free-kick 12 minutes from time which settled an evenly-contested game.
Sutton manager Paul Doswell was able to give a run out to ex-Tudors striker Ross Lafayette while Town boss Dean Brennan fielded a strong-looking side in a game that was always going to be a good test against a National League Premier outfit.
Sutton were FA Cup heroes last season after reaching the fifth round, beating AFC Wimbledon and Leeds United along the way before finally bowing out to Premier League side Arsenal.
Jeffrey Monakana had an early shot turned away by returning Tudors’ goalkeeper Laurie Walker, but the best action of the first-half was condensed into a spell of little more than a minute as Walker made a fine save to deny Lafayette’s header from an Aswad Thomas cross.
Hemel then immediately broke on the counter attack to the other end, where new signing David Moyo going clear of the Sutton defence but the former Northampton Town man shot just past Ross Worner and beyond the post.
Having being forced into one change in the first half, United made another five at the interval but most of their best moves floundered on a poor final pass or shot.
Some well-timed interventions from the Hemel defence also scuppered some of Sutton’s more promising moves.
United substitute goalkeeper James Behan made a save from a Taylor Miles free-kick, but when Nicky Bailey was penalised for a foul 25 yards out with 12 minutes to go, Greenhalgh’s free kick was inch-perfect, bouncing in off the underside of the crossbar.
Sutton’s best chance of a leveller came when Bailey’s cross was headed back across goal by Craig Dundas but Coombes was unable to make contact with his attempted close-range volley.
It was played in front of a crowd of 503 at Gander Green Lane.
Pre-season is certainly going much better so far this year compared with 2016 when Tudors supporters were slightly worried about their team’s poor showing at this stage.
Brennan and coach Stuart Maynard, aided by the hard work of Acadamy director Steve Boone, have certainly recruited well and they look a decent bet to at least trouble the playoff places this coming term.
Prospects are looking very positive, with a good feel around the club, but it’s still early days and everyone is aware that getting too carried away in July is a foolhardy business.
However, it is a complete contrast to the start of 2016/17 when fans were trying to convince themselves by saying these were ‘only friendlies’.
Next up for Hemel is a trip to Barnet under-23s this Saturday (11am kick-off) before they host Boreham Wood at Vauxhall Road next Monday and entertain Cambridge United next Wednesday, July 26, (both 7.45pm).
Hemel: Laurie Walker, Callum Driver, Joe Howe, Taylor Miles, Phil Walsh, Ismail Yakubu, James Kaloczi, Charlie Sheringham, David Moyo, Ben Greenhalgh, and Alex Osborn. Subs: not known.