A brace inside three second-half minutes saw Hemel Town new signing Rob Sinclair power a fightback to keep the Tudors in the playoff mix on Saturday afternoon.
Sinclair, who was new Tudors’ boss Joe Deeney’s second signing when he joined the club earlier this month, netted in the 49th and 52nd minutes to give Hemel an important 2-1 victory over bottom-but-one side East Thurrock United.
In a game they couldn’t afford to drop points in after a midweek home loss, the Tudors’ victory pushed the side back into contention in ninth place. It was Sinclair’s third goal in as many games.
Thurrock’s Sam Higgins had put the hosts 1-0 up after a dubious 33rd-minute penalty.
The Tudors now turn their attention to cup action, with two ties in five days.
It starts this Saturday when they travel to The Dripping Pan to take on Isthmian League Premier Division side Lewes in the FA Trophy third-qualifying round.
They then visit Southern League Premier Division Central outfit Hitchin Town in the Herts Senior Cup second round on Wednesday night.
Last Tuesday, Hemel went down 1-0 at Vauxhall Road in a derby-night clash against top-six side Wealdstone, writes Allan Mitchell.
A lapse of concentration from Hemel just after the half-hour proved costly as it led to the only goal in a tight and sometimes physical affair.
The hosts made the brighter start and could have taken an early lead when a Jordan Parkes corner caused chaos in the Stones box, but it didn’t quite fall Hemel’s way and it was cleared.
Wealdstone then got more of a foothold in the game and forced several corners without really threatening keeper Laurie Walker’s goal.
Then in the 33rd minute another corner was played short, catching the Hemel defence off guard and the cross was met by an unmarked David Pratt, who rose to power a header home past the helpless Walker to give them the lead.
That was pretty much it for chances in the first-half although skipper Parkes had a free-kick just outside the box before the break that looked all set-up for the Tudors maestro. He floated the ball over the wall but it lacked power and Stones’ stopper Jonathan North was able to save easily.
The second period saw both side’s huff and puff without really causing each other any problems. Another Parkes free-kick, somewhat uncharacteristically, flew high and wide, and he fired in a couple of corners that worried the Stones backline but it started to look as though the one goal was going to be enough.
There was almost a dramatic end when a good break by Hemel debutant Tom Knowles set up striker Steve Cawley, who got his first shot away which was blocked but he fired in the rebound and it looked set for the bottom corner before the Tudors’ nemesis North somehow got a hand to it right on the line and it was cleared.
North has so often been the scourge of Hemel, earning his club many a point in this fixture, but this time it was all three points as the Stones held on to move into second spot in the National League South table and condemning Tudors’ boss Deeney to his first defeat while in charge at Vauxhall Road.
Wealdstone will have been pleased with their night’s work and over the course of the 90 minutes probably just about deserved the win.
They look like every other side that has gone on to win promotion or qualify for the playoffs – a big, physical side who are well-organised and work very hard, as demanded by their vocal manager Bobby Wilkinson.
I expect them to be there or thereabouts come May.
As for the Tudors, it’s still very much a work in progress under the new management team of Deeney and Matt Spring but they are on the right path and are still only a couple of points off the playoff spots with two thirds of the season still to go.