Sammy Moore’s revamped Hemel Hempstead Town side got the chance to impress in front of their own fans for the first time this pre-season when gaining a creditable 1-1 draw against higher-league Ebbsfleet United on Saturday.
In an entertaining friendly clash at Vauxhall Road that saw both sides make many changes throughout, it was the new-look Tudors who caught the eye against their National League opponents, writes Allan Mitchell.
It’s been an eventual off-season for Hemel with a total of 12 new players brought in on former Concord boss Moore’s watch, while the club’s all-time leading scorer and former skipper Jordan Parkes, keeper Laurie Walker and Kyle Connolly have all exited the club.
The new faces took centre stage for Saturday’s game.
Ebbsfleet had former Hemel nemesis Nathan Ashmore in goal, who is still well-remembered by the Tudor Army for saving a crucial penalty for Gosport in the Southern League Premier play-off final in front of more than 2,000 fans at Vauxhall Road some six years ago.
And he frustrated Hemel again with a couple of superb stops, denying the excellent Craig Braham-Barrett and Alex Wall as the home side took the game to the visitors in the first period.
It was somewhat against the run of play when Ebbsfleet opened the scoring.
There was a blatant foul in the build-up with a Tudors defender almost losing his shirt as an Ebbsfleet player clearly had a grasp of it, but the officials saw nothing and the ball eventually dropped to James Ball, who fired home with a well-driven effort from just inside the box.
It was harsh on Hemel, but they continued to keep up a constant pace and their work-rate up throughout, playing some excellent football.
Hemel were finally rewarded when Liam Nash got onto the end of a superb through ball and cut inside before tucking it home with 15 minutes left on the clock.
Nash looked very good throughout the game and the way he controlled the ball before turning the defender to score was superb.
The Tudors continued to impress and looked the most likely to win the game with the clock ticking down.
New skipper Connor Essam and Mitch Dickenson looked secure in the centre of the defence, giving Ebbsfleet’s forwards nothing.
Braham-Barrett seemed to be involved with everything.
Striker Wall, who led all scorers in the National League South last year when with Moore at Concord Rangers, almost won it for Hemel near the end when he turned his defender before getting a shot away, but keeper Harry Palmer, who had replaced Ashmore in United’s goal, did well to save it at his near post.
In the end, Hemel had to settle for a draw but all the Tudors fans at the game felt they had seen the start of what promises to be a season in which their side can really threaten the promotion positions.
New manager Moore was delighted with the workout and thought his side just edged it.
He feels the players are definitely on the right track, they look fit and will only get better as the new season’s start approaches.
“There were lots of positives to take from the game”, he said.
Hemel’s squad: Sam Beasant, Jacques Kpohomouh, Craig Braham-Barrett, Luke Howell, Connor Essam (captain), Mitch Dickenson, Tosan Popo, Jakes Howells, Tyrone Sterling, Alex Wall, Isaac Galliford, Munashe Sundrie, Liam Nash, Lucas Perry, Danny Boness and Jack Midson.
Hemel were due to be back in pre-season friendly action again last night (Tuesday) as the Gazette was going to press.
Another higher-league team was set to arrive at Vauxhall Road to give Moore’s charges another testing work-out.
Paul Tisdale was bringing his League One side MK Dons to Hemel for a 7.45pm kick-off.
The Tudors will then wrap-up their pre-season with a home game against Berkhamsted FC this Saturday at 3pm.
The National League South proper then gets under way on Saturday, August 3, when Hungerford Town visit Vauxhall Road.