Resilient Hemel come from behind to secure first away win of season

Hemel, in action on the road during pre-season against Ebbsfleet, secured a battling 2-1 away win over Oxford City on Saturday. (File picture by Ben Fullylove).
Hemel, in action on the road during pre-season against Ebbsfleet, secured a battling 2-1 away win over Oxford City on Saturday. (File picture by Ben Fullylove).

Hemel Hempstead Town made it two wins from three games to start the new season after coming from behind to beat Hampton & Richmond Borough yesterday (Saturday).

The Tudors had to show resilience after conceding a goal inside the first 25 minutes and then had to survive a late scare when being reduced to ten men for a second time in as many matches.

The 2-1 final result represented Hemel’s first away win this term as they moved up into seventh place in the very early National League South standings.

The visitors also had to persevere in the face of another injury set-back when Tosan Popo had to depart in just the 20th minute following a knee injury.

But a leveller from Tudors’ skipper Connor Essam and Sam Ashford’s second-half strike proved to be the difference as Hemel overturned the early deficit to claim all three points.

However, the second sending off in as many games, along with the growing injury list gives some cause for concern.

Luke Howell was dismissed in the 44th minute during the midweek 3-1 reverse at Dorking, while yesterday it was transfer deadline-day signing Josh Wallen who was given his marching orders in the 83rd minute for a second yellow card.

The New Zealander, whose previous clubs include Queens Park Rangers, Chelmsford City and FC United of Manchester, signed for Hemel on Thursday but the midfielder’s debut was marred by the dismissal from referee Dale Wootton.

He had come on as a substitute in the 20th minute to replace the injured Popo but the debutant picked up two yellow cards in the space of just ten minutes as the clock ticked down.

Concerns over injuries were added to yesterday when the promising defender Popo had to be substituted after sustaining a knock to his knee.

Striker Ricardo German had to exit at half-time in the Tudors’ season-opener last Saturday after earlier scoring in the game and Hemel are already missing fellow forwards Alex Wall and Rob Sinclair through injury.

Tudors’ boss Sammy Moore named two changes to the starting line-up that lost 3-1 away at Dorking Wanders on Tuesday night, Jacques Kpohomouh coming into the back-four and veteran striker Jack Midson earning a re-call.

Jake Howells missed the game so he could be at the birth of his son.

The hosts broke the deadlock in the 24th minute when Tom Jelley put in a delightful cross that was met by Tyrone Lewthwaite with an acrobatic finish for a fine opening goal.

But Hemel were only behind for ten minutes before Essam stepped up to equalise following Galliford’s cross which bounced around the box before somewhat fortunately landing for Essam to finish into the bottom corner.

The visitors then found themselves 2-1 ahead just three minutes after the break when a through-ball to Ashford was slotted past the familiar form of ex-Tudors keeper Laurie Walker to stun the home crowd at the Jezzards Beveree Stadium,.

A back-and-forth tussle then ensued but without any particularly noteworthy chances being created as rain started to pour down.

Galliford delivered a dangerous ball into the box on the hour mark which was eventually snuffed out after a big save from Walker, who was the Hemel players’ player of the year after the 2017/18 season.

Wallen’s first yellow card arrived in the 73rd minute after a late challenge on Louis Stead and a second arrived in the 83rd after Wallen had reacted poorly to an incident and was given an early bath.

Howel cleared a dangerous ball into the area just two minutes before full-time to help preserve the Tudors’ lead and Hemel were thankful of the woodwork moments later after Dean Inman hit the bar after substitute Cole Brown’s cross.

But in the end the Tudors were able to see out the game to claim victory -- an outcome that often eluded them late in games during the second half of the last campaign.

Manager Moore was pleased with his side’s mental toughness and said post-match: “I’m delighted with the three points today. The boys showed great character to come from behind to win.”

But he added: “Can’t believe our luck with injuries at the minute.”

The victory condemned the Richmond upon Thames outfit to their third loss in as many matches to leave them as one of only four sides in the division without any points.

Tudors’ forward Liam Nash, who has found the net three times already this term, said on Twitter after the game: “Sometimes you have to win the horrible way and we did that today.

“[It was a] great reaction after Tuesday’s game; onto this Tuesday night now.”

And injured defender Popo said: “Big thanks to all of the Tudor Army that travelled today. Well done boys, another three points.

“On a personal note, I’m praying that the knee injury isn’t too serious.”

As alluded to earlier, yesterday was also a very special day for Jake Howells after the birth of his son, Ronnie Cruz Howells.

“Baby and mummy are doing well and I can’t wait to watch you grow up with your big bro! The most incredible feeling that words can’t describe and I couldn’t be any more proud,” the 28-year-old home-town midfielder said on Twitter.

Moore added his congratulations, saying: “Congratulations pal -- that win was for Ronnie today pal!”

Next up for Hemel is a home encounter under the lights at Vauxhall Road this Tuesday (7.45pm) when Dulwich Hamlet will be the visitors.

Dulwich are one of just three teams in the league with a 100 per cent winning record. They beat Hemel’s near-neighbours St Albans 2-1 yesterday after an 87th winner, despite having a man sent-off themselves in the 40th minute.

Their other wins so far have come against newcomers Tonbridge Angels and another Hemel derby foe, Wealdstone.

Moore is expecting a stern test and said after yesterday’s game: “Please come in your numbers on Tuesday and really get behind the boys as we face a tough Dulwich side.

“The fans were unbelievable once again today, never stopped singing and your support is really appreciated.”

In regards to the club’s injury situation, the Hemel gaffer said in midweek that striker Sinclair was about two weeks away from returning to the field, while last season’s National League South top scorer Wall was about a week away.

The following Saturday, August 17, then sees the club’s first highly-charged clash of the new season when derby rivals Wealdstone arrive at Vauxhall Road.

Hemel’s line-up v Hampton & Richmond: Sam Beasant, Jacques Kpohomouh, Craig Braham-Barrett, Luke Howell, Connor Essam (captain), Tyrone Sterling, Liam Nash, Tosan Popo (Josh Wallen, 20 mins), Sam Ashford, Jack Midson, Isaac Galliford (Munashie Sundire, 80 mins). Subs not used: Sydney Ibie, Danny Boness.

Attendance: 384.