Hemel Town’s regular season ended in a 2-1 loss in a tight affair down in Somerset on Saturday but all eyes now turn to Wednesday night when they face Braintree in the first round of the National League South playoffs.
The Tudors’ final league game was somewhat of an anti-climax as they lost out to 13th-ranked Weston-super-Mare - Town’s first reverse since March 17.
The Tudor Army had turned out in force - and fancy dress - to support their team and they looked the most likely side to score in the early periods, Spencer McCall and Herschel Sanchez Watt both missing good chances early on.
Hemel skipper Jordan Parkes then saw a free-kick just go wide and his in-swinging corners were causing problems for The Seagulls’ backline.
Home keeper Luke Purnell almost punched one of those dangerous corners into his own net, the ball spinning backwards before being cleared off the line.
Striker David Moyo, who has been in good form for Hemel of late, netting six times in the past 10 games, then had a great chance on 20 minutes when he raced clear of the defence and got a shot away from an angle. It beat Purnell but also the near post, crashing into the side netting with many Tudors fans thinking it had gone in.
Weston, who took a point at Vauxhall Road in October, almost took the lead with their first real chance but the ball cannoned off the woodwork before rebounding to Jake Lee who tucked it away. However, unfortunately for him, he was in an offside position and the goal was ruled out. It was a bit of a wake-up call for the visitors and showed they weren’t in for an easy afternoon against a side with nothing other than pride to play for.
Hemel finally took the lead on 35 minutes when another Parkes corner curled in towards goal, Seagulls’ fullback Danny Greenslade got his head to it but it skimmed off him and into the roof of his own net for an own goal.
Minutes later Watt really should have given Hemel a two-goal cushion when he evaded the offside trap and raced towards goal, but his shot was too close to Purnell and it was saved by an outstretched foot.
On 40 minutes the Tudors were made to pay for their profligacy when Jacob Cane latched onto a loose ball some 25 yards out before drilling it past Hemel keeper Laurie Walker to put his side level.
It really was a superb strike and it certainly lifted the home side, coming at the perfect time just before the break.
Weston started to enjoy themselves in the second period and Walker was called upon on several occasions as Hemel piled forward in search of another goal, leaving him exposed at the back.
He was unable to prevent Weston from taking the lead on 56 minutes, however, when a quick counter-attack down the left wasn’t dealt with. The ball was crossed in and only half-cleared to Jarrad Welch, who wasted no time in firing it past Walker’s outstretched hand, the ball taking a slight deflection on the way in which gave the Hemel stopper no chance.
The visitors were visibly shocked by this setback and despite making changes they just couldn’t get back into the game.
Parkes saw two more free-kicks fly just wide and Alex Osborn was put clear late on but once again Purnell stopped the shot with his legs.
Meanwhile, up the other end, Walker was doing his utmost to keep his side in the match, saving well, including one stop on the line that even had some of the home fans applauding.
As the time ticked down, the Tudors fans were well aware that fellow playoff rivals Truro were winning at Hampton & Richmond, and if the scores remained the same they would have had a nightmare journey to Cornwall to look forward to on Wednesday night instead of a home tie that everyone wanted.
As news filtered through that Hampton had equalised, the tension lifted and with the final score ending up as a draw it means Hemel remained in fifth place in the league table despite this defeat.
They now face Braintree at Vauxhall Road in what is effectively a quarter-final playoff game. Hemel won the season series with the Essex side, beating them 2-1 on the road in January while triumphing 4-3 at home in September last year.
Tickets for the game are available from the club, the Greenacres Taverns at Bennetts End and Grove Hill, and Underwoods Solicitors in The Marlowes from tomorrow (Monday).
Tickets costs £15 for adults, £10 for Concessions or £5 for the under-18s.
Hemel v Weston-super-Mare: Laurie Walker, Lloyd Doyley (Joe Howe), Kyle Connolly, Jordan Parkes, Darren Ward, Ismail Yakubu, Matt Saunders (James Kaloczi), Spencer McCall (Alex Osborn), David Moyo, Herschel Sanchez Watt, Karl Oliyyde. Subs not used : Scott Shulton and Danny Boness.
Mitch’s man of the match: Laurie Walker.