Hemel Hempstead Town manager Sammy Moore issued an apology to every single one of the travelling Tudor Army who made the short trip to Beaconsfield Town today (Saturday) after his side’s shock exit in the FA Cup second qualifying round.
The long-suffering Hemel fans have been yearning for a decent run in the historic cup competition, but every season the side somehow fails to deliver.
The Tudors came into this tie in good form, riding high in second place in the National League South, while their opponents have been struggling at the bottom of the division-below Southern League Premier South, with only two wins in their past nine games.
Every Hemel fan at Holloways Park was expecting nothing short of victory, but as this was the FA Cup, they all knew about the upsets and drama in the long history of the competition.
There was little sign of anything to trouble the visitors as they took the game to their hosts, indeed Ricardo German could have had a hat-trick inside 15 minutes but was denied by the excellent Myles Bowman in the Beaconsfield goal.
He stopped a shot with his legs after five minutes, then another by just getting a hand to the ball, before blocking again with his legs -- all from the unfortunate German who should probably have made at least one of the chances count.
With Beaconsfield struggling to get out of their own half, a corner was fizzed across the face of the goal and Luke Howell just failed to get a vital touch with the goal begging in front of him.
Luke Howell had to go off around the 35-minute mark due to picking up an injury, with Jacques Kpohomouh coming on as a replacement.
There was still time at the end of the period for German to head over from six yards from another corner and The Rams were relieved to go in at the break still on level terms.
The second-half saw the hosts gain in confidence as Hemel seemed to drop their work rate, almost waiting for something to happen.
Tosan Popo had an early chance but hit his shot tamely at Bowman, who saved easily.
German then headed over again from close range before Liam Nash had a shot well-saved by Bowman, who pushed the ball away when it looked to be heading for the top corner.
Although Beaconsfield were getting more of the ball, they rarely troubled Danny Boness in Hemel’s goal and the game started to drift towards what looked like an inevitable replay back at Vauxhall Road on Tuesday night.
But with just nine minutes of normal time left, the referee awarded a somewhat dubious free-kick against Hemel skipper Connor Essam for a handball -- just what he was supposed to do when the ball was fired at him from such close range is anyone’s guess.
The free-kick was quickly taken and a run and cross down the left was met by Reece York, who couldn’t miss from just a yard out and the upset was well and truly on.
It was Beaconsfield’s first real attempt on target, but it was all they needed and they were then in no mood to surrender the tie.
Hemel started to push forward with more urgency and really should have levelled when Isaac Galliford was put in the clear, firing his shot high over the bar as the keeper closed him down, much to the dismay of the visiting fans.
With the clock ticking down, Hemel substitute Sam Ashford had an even better chance with just the keeper to beat, but he miscued his shot and it drifted harmlessly wide.
That was all Hemel could muster as The Rams held on, understandably content to waste time and frustrate Hemel until the final whistle went.
It was met with near-silence from the terraces as the few Beaconsfield fans in attendance were vastly outnumbered by the visitors, but the Rams players celebrated with glee as they moved into the hat for the third qualifying round.
Hemel’s fans were left to reflect on another FA Cup exit at an early stage and will now have to concentrate their efforts on the league.
Moore said after the game on Twitter: “Apologies to every single fan that travelled today.
“We as a group -- management and players -- have let you down today. Nowhere near good enough. That aside, if you don’t take your chances you don’t win games of football.
“Good luck to Beaconsfield in the next round.”
Next up for the Tudors is a home clash with tenth-placed Bath City next Saturday, September 28.
Hemel’s line-up v Beaconsfield: Danny Boness, Munashe Sundire, Jake Howells (Tyrone Sterling, 67 mins), Tosan Popo, Connor Essam (captain), Mitch Dickenson, Liam Nash (Sam Ashford, 60 mins), Luke Howell (Jacques Kpohomouh, 35 mins), Isaac Galliford, Ricardo German, Craig Braham-Barrett. Subs not used: Joel Nketia, Jack Midson, George Paulin, Aluin Magagada.
Tudors’ man of the match: Essam.
Attendance: Not yet published by home side.