Hemel Town bagged a dramatic late equaliser against ten-man St Albans City in an action-packed bank holiday derby at Clarence Park this afternoon.
Hemel looked like they would return home empty-handed from the feisty clash, but Jamal Lowe struck in the 89th minute to snatch a point for the Tudors.
Saints had taken the lead in the first minute through Simon Thomas, before Hemel equalised from the penalty spot through Oli Hawkins in first half stoppage time as Ian Gayle was dismissed for bringing down Dennis Oli.
Playing a full 45 minutes with a man advantage, Hemel were strong favourites to go on and win the game, but Kevin Krans put the Saints back in front in the 71st minute, before Lowe pounced late on.
Hemel were once again missing a number of key players through injury, with Jamie Slabber unable to recover from injury in time for the game, but former Saint John Frendo was amongst the Tudors substitutes.
It was St Albans who made a flying start as they took the lead inside the first minute. Hemel were unable to clear their lines from a throw-in, and the ball broke kindly for Thomas to slot coolly past Tudors keeper Jamie Butler.
The Saints continued to press as they dominated the opening 10 minutes, with Hemel struggling to get into their stride in the damp and overcast conditions. Indeed, it was the hosts who came closest next as Ian Gayle headed against the bar, but the referee blew for a foul.
Despite their lacklustre start, Hemel could have equalised in the 12th minute when Lowe bore down on goal. Saints keeper Joe Welch came out smartly to smother, but the Hemel bench was furious that a penalty wasn’t awarded for what appeared to have been a trip on the Tudors forward.
Despite this, chances were few and far between for Hemel in the first 30 minutes and manager Dean Brennan reacted early – bringing on Dennis Oli in place of Willy Gnahore with just 26 minutes on the clock.
It was St Albans who should have doubled their lead in the 36th minute when a Lee Chappell corner was flicked on at the near post, but Thomas somehow managed to hit the post from four yards out with the goal gaping.
But the game turned on its head in first half stoppage time as Hemel were handed a way back into the match. Oli turned Gayle just inside the area, and appeared to be brought down; the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and showing Gayle a straight red card – with Hawkins confidently dispatching the resulting penalty to restore parity.
The Tudors thought they had taken the lead 15 minutes into the second period after Welch spilled a dipping shot, but the linesman’s flag went up before skipper James Potton slotted the lose ball home.
But it was St Albans who somehow defied their numerical advantage and took the lead against the run of play as the ball broke to Krans on the edge of the box and he lashed a half-volley past the helpless Butler.
Hemel responded by bringing on Frendo, who was greeted by a chorus of boos and jeers from the home fans, as the Tudors looked desperately for a way back into the game.
The visitors were looking increasingly short of ideas up front, but in the 88th minute they finally made the breakthrough to level things up. Lowe controlled and turned excellently in the box, before lashing home to the delight of the travelling Tudor faithful.
St Albans could still have gone on to win it in stoppage time, but Caappell was well off-target with the goal a his mercy as it finished all square.
Speaking after the game, Hemel manager Brennan labelled his side’s performance as ‘terrible.’ More reaction to follow.
St Albans: Joe Welch, John Kyriacou, Lee Chappell, Ghassimu Sow, Ian Gayle, Ben Martin, Jack Green (Darren Locke, 45), James Comley, Louie Theophanous (Billy Medlock, 90), Simon Thomas, David Longe-King (79), Kevin Krans. Subs not used: Lewis Hilliard, Tom Coulton.
Hemel Hempstead Town: Jamie Butler, Ben Herd, Kyle Connolly, Matty Harriott, Michael Richens, Matt Spring (Ed Asafu-Adjaye, 63), James Potton, Ed Oshodi, Oliver Hawkins, Wilfred Gnahore (Dennis Oli, 26; John Frendo, 71), Jamal Lowe. Subs not used: Terrell Forbes, Xavier Comas Leon.