Hemel Hempstead Town sent a message to the rest of the league when they put big-spending Billericay Town to the sword 3-0 in front of more than 800 fans at Vauxhall Road on Bank Holiday Monday.
The big victory came just a few days after beating Oxford City 2-1 on the road, with both wins combining to push the Tudors into second place in the National League South standings after seven games.
On another scorching day on Monday, the game stood on a knife edge for more than 80 minutes as both sides cancelled each other out, writes Allan Mitchell.
And it was some inspired substitutions that won the game when boss Sammy Moore at last had the luxury of bringing impact players off the bench following several weeks of injury unavailability.
Before this Billericay had lots of possession but Hemel’s excellent back four dealt with most of their attacks.
Former Lincoln City man Matt Rhead was a constant threat and the Tudors had to thank loanee Watford teenager Daniel Phillips when he cleared a powerful header from Rhead off the line on 38 minutes.
Among the Billericay ranks were former striker Jake Robinson and former Hemel skipper and record scorer Jordan Parkes, who was returning to Vauxhall Road for the first time since leaving the club in the off-season.
He had a few chances but was unable to break the deadlock for his new side.
In the second-half Billericay continued to control possession and nearly took the lead on 54 minutes when Rhead got another header in on target but keeper Sam Beasant saved superbly, tipping the ball out for a corner.
The game changed with 20 minutes left when Moore brought on the pacey Ricardo German and the astute Liam Nash, who brought pace and power to their attacks.
Nash almost broke the deadlock on 78 minutes when he curled a free-kick over the wall, away keeper Alan Julian appeared to get a touch but the referee gave a goal kick.
This looked to be a warning sign for the visitors and so it proved when minutes later the lively Sam Ashford drove a shot in from the edge of the box, which was parried by Julian to German, who laid it back to the waiting Nash to drive the ball home.
German proved to be a major problem for the visitors’ back-line and he brilliantly put Hemel 2-0 up in the 86th minute. Receiving the ball on the left, he turned his marker and fired home from the edge of the box.
With the Tudors fans in full voice he then added a third in the 90th minute, evading Billericay’s high line and racing through the middle before tucking the ball confidently past Julian.It was the 20-year-old’s fourth goal in just three games this season.
Hemel v Billericay: Sam Beasant, Jacques Kpohomouh, Craig Braham-Barrett, Dan Phillips, Connor Essam (captain), Tyrone Sterling, Sam Ashford (Munashe Sundire), Luke Howell, Mo Bettamer (Ricardo German), Isaac Galliford (Liam Nash), Jake Howells. Subs not used: Sydney Ibie, Danny Boness.
Moore was pleased with his side’s reaction to last Saturday’s derby defeat to Wealdstone by bouncing back to claim a tough-nosed 2-1 away victory at a scorching-hot Oxford City on Saturday.
It was just the fifth time in the past 19 meetings between the two sides where the away team emerged victorious and Moore was delighted with his team’s desire in a tough place to play on City’s 3G artificial pitch.
New arrival Phillips put in a man of the match display on his debut and bagged a spectacular goal for his efforts.
The 18-year-old, who is on loan from Watford until January, scored a fifth-minute screamer from 25 yards to give the visitors a 1-0 lead and his overall performance earned him National League South team of the week honours.
The midfielder, whose loan signing was announced on Thursday, joined Watford in 2015 as an under-14s player and was their under-23s academy player of the season last term.
The early goal at Marsh Lane was cancelled out seven minutes after the break when Kyran Wiltshire curled in a 25-yard free-kick into the top corner.
But the Tudors were not willing to settle for a draw and battled on in a game interspersed with drinks breaks due to the heat.
The 69th minute substitute German, returning to the side after a four-game absence through injury, secured the winner in the 82nd minute.
He was able to get a one-on-one with Oxford keeper Craig King and slotted home from a tight angle, much to the delight of the travelling Tudor Army contingent.
Moore was pleased with his squad’s ability to bounce back after the tough 3-0 reverse to Wealdstone.
Hemel’s line-up v Oxford City: Sam Beasant, Munashie Sundire, Craig Braham-Barrett, Daniel Phillips, Connor Essam (captain), Tyrone Sterling, Liam Nash (Isaac Galliford), Jake Howells (Jacques Kpohomouh), Sam Ashford (Ricardo German), Jack Midson, Mo Bettamer. Subs not used: Sydney Ibie, Danny Boness.
Next up for the Tudors is a trip to 20th-ranked Dartford, who have won just once in their seven games this term.
They then hit the road again next Tuesday night, September 3, to face 15th-placed Slough Town.