Hemel Hempstead Town earned a hard-fought 2-0 win on the road at league newcomers Tonbridge Angels yesterday (Saturday) to move into second place in the National League South table.
It was the Tudors’ seventh win in 11 outings this term but the result could have been very different if the hosts had made more of their first-half chances and not missed a penalty in the second period.
Hemel were certainly not firing on all cylinders, but the fact they were able to grind out three points speaks volumes about the squad. They also notched their fourth clean sheet of the season.
It took the visitors a while to settle into the game, which was played in glorious conditions at the impressive Longmead Stadium, and they couldn’t really get a foothold early on, writes Steve Rundle.
They did come close to breaking the deadlock just after the quarter-hour when a corner was turned against the bar by Luke Howell, but this turned out to be the closest they came to scoring in the first 45 minutes.
The Angels, who gained promotion last year via the play-offs from the Isthmian League Premier, looked the more likely to score and increased the pressure as the game neared the break.
On 34 minutes stand-in keeper Danny Boness, making his third start in a row for the injured Sam Beasant, had to make a fine save to keep the scores level.
The keeper was called into action again minutes later as he stretched in mid-air to superbly tip wide a well-struck volley that was destined for the top corner.
It remained goalless at the interval and the travelling Tudor Army were hoping that the Angels would rue missing several good first-half opportunities.
The half-time pep talk from Tudors’ boss Sammy Moore looked to have made a big difference as Hemel looked a different side at the start of the second period.
A new-found confidence was evident and just three minutes after the re-start a flick-on by assistant manager/player Jack Midson found Liam Nash, who toe-poked the ball past Tonbridge keeper Jonathan Henly to put Hemel 1-0 ahead.
The Tudors continued to impress and on 55 minutes they won a free-kick just outside the box. Up stepped Nash, who was superb all afternoon, and he picked his spot with a beauty of a strike in front of the Tudor Army to make it 2-0 for his sixth goal of the season.
As expected, the home side responded by piling on the pressure to try to get back into the game and had a shot cleared off the line on the hour, while Boness staked a claim for the No 1 jersey permanently when he continued to thwart the Tonbridge threat.
The Angels’ best chance to narrow the deficit came in the 67th minute when they were awarded a somewhat dubious penalty when Boness was adjudged to have brought down a Tonbridge player after initially saving the shot.
But Hemel’s man of the match keeper wasn’t needed on this occasion as Joe Turner’s spot-kick was blasted high into the rafters, much to the delight of the travelling supporters.
With substitute Ricardo German then on the pitch, Hemel were still looking for a killer third goal and came close a few times, but it was mostly a case of having to dig in for the last ten minutes to keep the Angels at bay.
The Tudors were able to see the game out to earn maximum points and climb up one spot to second in the standings, two points clear of Havant & Waterlooville who lost 3-1 at home to Braintree Town.
After the victory, Tudors’ boss Sammy Moore said on Twitter: “Another big three points on the road.
“Lots of positives to take. The squad has been tested with players coming in and doing excellent for us.
“Onto the FA Cup next week.
“The fans were brilliant again; great support.”
Hemel defender Tyrone Sterling, who came off the bench after international duty for Grenada last week, said on Twitter: “Great to be back involved today. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how you win, but make sure you win.
“Well done to all the boys, a great three points.”
The Tudors will next be turning their attention to the FA Cup when they travel to Holloways Park in Buckinghamshire next Saturday, September 21, to take on Beaconsfield Town in the second qualifying round of the historic competition.
The Rams, who beat Combined Counties Premier side Sutton Common Rovers 3-1 in the first qualifying round, have endured a tough start to their season, losing seven of their opening nine games to hit rock bottom in the Southern League Premier South table.
However, they have rebounded of late, winning two of their last three.
Hemel’s next league action is on Saturday, September 28, when they return to Vauxhall Road to host tenth-ranked Bath City, a team who have proved to be a bogey opponent in recent years.
Hemel’s line-up v Tonbridge: Danny Boness, Tosan Popo, Jake Howells (Tyrone Sterling, 79 mins), Munashie Sundire, Connor Essam (captain), Mitch Dickenson, Liam Nash, Luke Howell, Isaac Galliford (Ricardo German, 60 mins), Jack Midson, Sam Ashford (Craig Braham-Barrett, 69 mins). Sub not used: Jacques Kpohomouh.
Tudors’ man of the match: Danny Boness.
Attendance: Not yet confirmed by Tonbridge.