The revamped Hemel Hempstead Town side under new boss Sammy Moore made the perfect start to their National League South season on Saturday by comprehensively beating Hungerford Town 4-1 at Vauxhall Road in front of an expectant home crowd.
It’s been some time since the Tudors have had this much to shout about and there was an air of excitement around the ground before kick-off, but Moore’s side did not let them down as they put in a powerful performance.
After some early exchanges, the new-look Tudors – who made more than a dozen personnel changes this summer – got into gear quickly and started creating chances.
They had a penalty appeal turned down after just nine minutes when assistant manager/player Jack Midson was pushed in the back. A Hungerford defender clearly put both of his hands into Midson’s back, right in front of the referee, and took him out completely, but the official waved away the appeals.
The visitors then let everyone know they weren’t there to make up the numbers when Louis McGrory found some space on the edge of the box to drive in a shot at new keeper Sam Beasant, but it drifted just wide of the post.
Ricardo German repeated McGrory’s effort at the other end, the ball also going wide, before Tyrone Sterling saw his shot tipped onto the bar by Adam Siviter in Hungerford’s goal.
The Tudors deservedly took the lead on 24 minutes when Midson did well down the right before crossing for Sam Ashford, who nodded it back to an unmarked Liam Nash to drive the ball home.
Hungerford surprisingly silenced the home crowd by scoring against the run of play six minutes’ later when a corner was headed in by James Rusby. There was a scuffle in the penalty area as the corner was due to be taken and the referee had to call the players together for a chat. The delay seemed to unsettle Hemel’s back-line and the visitors took full advantage, with Rusby arriving unmarked at the back post.
It was a short reprieve, however, as Hemel continued to push forward and another flick from Midson was taken on by Ricardo German, who rounded Siviter to make it 2-1 just two minutes after Hungerford’s leveller.
German, who caused all sorts of problems for the Crusaders, then hit the post with a great turn-and-shoot move, before the Tudors created several other near-miss opportunities before the interval, including a shot-cum-cross by Nash that hit a defender and looped over Siviter towards goal, only to be cleared just before it crossed the line.
At half-time, many Tudors’ fans felt the game should have been done and dusted and the one-goal lead did not do justice to the dominance they exerted.
The excellent German did not come out for the second-half, but it didn’t seem to effect the hosts and they wasted no time in increasing the lead when the impressive Nash raced clear down the left and drove the ball across goal to substitute Isaac Galliford, who tapped home with his first touch of the game after 48 minutes to make it 3-1.
Hemel rarely looked in trouble after that and they added a fourth in the 85th minute when Nash fired home his second of the match after a superb turn-and-shot across the face of the goal to give Moore the start he wanted.
All Tudors fans agreed there were a number of contenders for man of the match, with Midson winning nearly every header and showing a remarkable work-rate, while Luke Howell ran the midfield, popping up everywhere to tidy up, win tackles and set-up attacks.
In the end, it was agreed that Nash just edged it, but there wasn’t a player on the pitch who had a below-par display on the day.
Moore was pleased with the result, but also said his side will get better.
He was disappointed with the goal conceded, but overall he was very happy with the performance, echoing the supporters’ opinion that no player had below a 7/10 game.
Moore said on Twitter on Saturday night: “Outstanding start, lots of positives we can take out of today, but also stuff we can work on!
“[The] fans were unbelievable today, [they] never stopped singing. [The] management and players really appreciate your support.
“[We now need to] rest up ready for a tough game on Tuesday.”
Prior to the match, the former Concord and Leatherhead boss Moore had said: “Our pre-season has been excellent. Fitness levels are exactly where we need them to be. The [pre-season friendly] performances against MK Dons and Ebbsfleet were outstanding.
“Today is the start of exciting times for this fantastic football club. We have prepared perfectly for it. We know Hungerford’s strengths and weaknesses.
“You fans can play a massive part in getting us off to the perfect start by getting behind the boys and really making a great atmosphere.”
This Tuesday night Hemel hit the road to take on Dorking Wanderers, who won their opening league game on Saturday 1-0 away at ten-man Slough Town thanks to a controversial 90th minute winner from Matt Briggs.
Moore isn’t sure how bad German’s injury is but they will assess it during the week.
He is also hoping to have last season’s National League South top scorer Alex Wall back for the game against the newly-promoted Dorking side, who won the Isthmian League Premier Division at a canter last term.
That trip will then be followed by another away excursion when they visit Hampton & Richmond Borough next Saturday, August 10. Borough lost 4-1 at the weekend away at Chelmsford City and host Havant & Waterlooville on Tuesday evening.
Hemel’s line-up v Hungerford: Sam Beasant, Tosan Popo, Craig Braham-Barrett, Luke Howell, Connor Essam (captain), Tyrone Sterling, Liam Nash, Jake Howells, Ricardo German (Isaac Galliford), Jack Midson (Mitch Dickenson), Sam Ashford, (Jacques Kpohomouh). Subs not used: Munashie Sundrie and Danny Boness.
Man of the match: Liam Nash.