High-flying Hemel Hempstead Town slipped to a surprising 2-0 away defeat at Slough Town tonight (Tuesday).
The Tudors made four changes to the starting line-up that drew 1-1 with Dartford at the weekend, bringing in Ricardo German, Isaac Galliford, Mo Bettamer and reserve keeper Danny Boness for Jack Midson, Tyrone Sterling, Liam Nash and Saturday’s man-of-the-match stopper Sam Beasant.
Craig Braham-Barrett was perhaps a surprise inclusion in the back-line after exiting early with a tight hamstring against The Darts, while Toson Popo returned to the squad on the bench after a six-game absence through injury. Striker Alex Wall, who logged 45 minutes as a substitute on Saturday in his Tudors debut, was also on the bench.
Slough, in 15th place in the National League South standings before the game, opened the scoring at Arbour Park in the 25th minute when Warren Harris smashed home a cross after good work down the left from Dan Roberts.
The hosts nearly made it 2-0 seven minutes’ later when Boness made a great reaction save to deny Matt Lench.
But the hosts did then double their lead on 41 minutes after Matt Worsfold curled a sublime strike from the edge of the box over the head of Boness into the top corner.
Tudors’ boss Sammy Moore had clearly seen enough and made an early change, bringing on midfield maestro Liam Nash for forward Mo Bettamer in the 42nd minute.
The first-half came to an end with the home side’s 2-0 lead in tact but not before they almost added a third on the stroke of half-time when a ball across the box from Josh Jackman just evaded Lee Togwell.
Hemel’s only real chance of the period was Galliford’s eighth-minute effort that was well-saved by Slough net man Jack Turner.
The visitors made another change at the break, bringing on Wall in the hope that last season’s National League South top scorer could get them back in the game.
After the re-start, Turner got down well to save with his feet from German in the 53rd minute, moments after Harris had seen an effort blocked and then put a header wide at the other end of the pitch.
In the 63rd minute Tudors’ skipper Connor Essam had an effort go high over the bar from six yards out after a through-ball from Wall, adding to the feeling that it was going to be one of those games.
Two close efforts for Hemel came and went around the 75th-minute mark when firstly a corner went across the face of the goal but inexplicably avoided a touch from anyone, and then Wall very nearly pulled one back with a header from a corner that just went wide.
It seemed like the hosts were hanging on at that point, typified by their keeper Turner being cautioned for time wasting when he delayed a re-start.
But Slough then had a close shout for a penalty with ten minutes to go which the referee was unmoved by.
Yet another unlucky effort for the visitors arrived in the 84th minute when a header from a corner bounced off the top of the bar.
Six minutes of injury time were added by referee Phillip Steynings but it wasn’t Hemel’s night as the hosts slowed play down and saw out the game to take maximum points.
Hemel had an excellent first eight games of the season, winning five and drawing one of those contests to put them in third place, but tonight’s shock defeat proved once again how difficult a division the National League South can be, with seemingly any team capable of beating another on a given night.
The loss only dropped Hemel to fourth place in the table, though, while Slough moved up to 13th. Wealdstone look to be running away with the division at the moment and are already seven points clear of the chasing pack after their 3-2 victory at St Albans City tonight.
Next up for the Tudors at Vauxhall Road this Saturday will be the visit of 12th-placed Chelmsford City, who drew 1-1 at home to Billericay Town on Monday night.
Moore will be hoping for a response from his squad as he will no doubt have been disappointed with tonight’s performance, although the second-half fight-back was a vast improvement.
Hemel’s line-up v Slough: Danny Boness, Jake Howells, Craig Braham-Barrett, Daniel Phillips, Connor Essam (captain), Jacque Kpohomouh, Isaac Galliford (Alex Wall, half-time), Luke Howell, Ricardo German (Jack Midson, 74 mins), Sam Ashford, Mo Bettamer (Liam Nash, 42 mins). Subs not used: Tosan Popo, Munashe Sundire.