Match report courtesy of Arlesey Town's Chris Sterry.
For this game against the League leaders Arlesey reinstated Abbey, Roberts, Hatch and Blackett to the starting line up. They also welcomed back Leon Hibbert to the bench after his trip to Australia. This was always going to be a hard game, but on the back of a 5 game unbeaten run Arlesey were in a confident mood.
The day was cold but at least dry although the pitch was still “soft”.
The game started with at a tremendous pace from the very start. Aston Goss attacked down the left and fed a good ball into James Hatch who hit a good hard shot from just outside the area at had Sam Beagle
throwing himself into a good early save.
Hemel retaliated with the tall Charlie Mpi
raiding down the right; his ball in found Jordan Parks but he was unable to control his shot hitting it high over the bar and out of the ground. Another attack from the same source a minute later found Matt Nolan
on the edge of the Arlesey area and he gave the ball an exquisite flick that looped the ball high over Nathan Abbey who had come off his line to drop perfectly under the bar and into the net for an early Hemel goal that had class written all over it.
Arlesey were not going to take this lying down though and pushed forward. A free kick was delivered in by Abbey from the half way line; the ball bounced up onto Phil Andersons arm and a huge shout for hand ball went up from everybody at that end although the ref wasn’t impressed and the ball was cleared.
Drew Roberts who was looking sharp attacked into the box and flicked a great little cross over to Chris Dillon in the centre, he was blocked but the ball came back to Roberts who as he collected it went down under a challenge from a defender and this time the ref pointed straight to the spot for a penalty.
Roberts collected himself and drove the ball past Beagle for a well taken spot kick to equalise the scores after just 7 minutes.
Arlesey kept up the pressure, another free kick in found Hatch who found Shane Blackett; he in turn quickly found Goss as the good move developed and he delivered in a great cross that found Danny Gordon who thumped in a good header and produced an equally good save from Beagle.
Hemel countered as another attack down the right by Mpi saw him hit a deep cross that skipped past everybody and also skimmed just past the far post.
This game was flowing fast from end to end; Jemal Johnson was fed in by Roberts and won a corner. This came out to Goss who quickly fed in Roberts and he crossed to Gordon who tried to chip the ball in but it went just past the post.
A mistake by Beagle saw him miss kick the ball and it went out for another corner but he atoned well with a good catch under pressure from the delivery in by Roberts.
As Hemel tried to push up a break out by Goss fed Roberts who attacked into the box and hit a tremendous shot that hit the cross bar and flicked out. Arlesey kept up the pressure as another free kick in was met with a header from Hatch and another good save before Roberts broke through with a defender trailing at his heals, Beagle came out and dived at his feet and Roberts went over him, everybody shouted for and expected the what looked like a clear penalty but the ref again wasn’t interested leaving Roberts dumbfounded on the floor.
Up the other end just a minute later a corner was delivered in and Danny Talbot
tangled with Blackett as they went up together, another shout for a penalty went up from Hemel this time and again it didn’t interest the ref although Talbot looked injured and required treatment.
Another run forward by Johnson found Roberts who put in a deep cross to Dillon but Danny May
showed good skill in chesting it back calmly to his keeper.
A Hemel free kick in was put out for a corner by Dillon who was helping out his defence. From this Nolan went down very theatrically with what was actually a really poor attempt at a dive but he got nothing but derision from the home fans.
Another great cross in from Goss saw the ball just go over the outstretched foot of Dillon when any sort of touch would surly have diverted it into the net. Another good run by Goss saw him jinking into the box tormenting his defender before putting in a good cross that found Hatch, he got in a good header that pulled a good save from Beagle. Another good run from Goss who was having a really good game saw him burst through the middle and find Roberts who hit another good shot and saw yet another good save from Beagle he pushed it out, Johnson put another good ball in but this time it was well cut out by the defence in front of both Roberts and Dillon.
A foul on Goss by Danny May
saw him go straight through the Arlesey winger and although he gained a yellow card it could easily have been red. From the free kick Dillon got it a strike that Beagle parried as far as Hatch who headed it back past him into the net but his celebrations were cut short by a marginal off side decision from the linesman.
As this pulsating half drew to a close Hemel again attacked down the right through Mpi but Arlesey were defending well and as the ball came back to Talbot his shot from the edge of the area went over the bar. With 3 mins of extra time played Mpi took out Abbey on the edge of the area for a reckless foul but after a talking to he escaped further punishment to which he must consider himself very fortunate.
With the half time conversation being more about how this game was still all square in either direction, the second period started in the same fashion as the first.
A good little cross toward Roberts by Dillon was well cut out by Beagle before Mpi who had moved into the centre was put through with just Abbey in front of him, The tall forward slipped the ball past Abbey as he closed him down and it looked to be heading goalward but Danny Gordon was not giving this up and chased it back to make a great goal line clearance and keep things all square.
As Hemel pushed forward Arlesey were forced into a more defensive posture but they still looked dangerous on the break; a great ball out from Gordon found Goss who broke out and attacked into the box and shot pulling yet anther great save out of Beagle but he could only parry the ball into the oncoming crowd and Hatch tried to make contact but the ball stopped dead in the mud and he was unable to connect properly and the ball was cleared but he really should have scored.
The break through came in an unusual fashion; Johnson hit a shot from the edge of the area that flicked up off Andersons foot and up onto his hand. The ref decided that this was deliberate and awarded Arlesey their second spot kick of the afternoon. Anderson kept arguing about this and gained a yellow card for dissent as Roberts claimed the ball and for the second time drove it confidently past Beagle to give Arlesey the lead for the first time.
Hemel were confined to corners now as Arlesey tightened up and one was close as it dropped onto the roof of the net before Hemel replaced Danny May
with Victor Osobo.
Another ball through the centre fed in Mpi again and as he got to the edge of the Arlesey area Danny Gordon put in a tackle that looked to have both got the ball and be just outside the line but the trailing ref pointed to the spot for the 3rd time in the afternoon as Mpi sprawled down into the box.
Captain Steve Oleary stepped up to take responsibility and hit a shot to Abbey’s right, the keeper flung himself down and just managed to touch it onto the post with a superb save and it pinged clear to preserve Arleseys lead.
Arlesey were still looking dangerous going forward, Ben Farrell fed in Roberts who fed his partner Dillon in; he shot around Beagle who must have just got enough onto it to divert it narrowly around the post for a corner. From this Dillon headed just wide of the target.
As Goss won another corner Hemel replaced Steve Oleary with Peter Holmes
. Roberts delivered the ball in and Gordon put it back out to him to have a second go, this he did and the cross was met firmly by Dillon with a header that was cleared off the line. Arlesey were now rampant and fluid going forward, Dillon fed in Goss who pulled a good ball back to Johnson who hit a shot that skimmed over the bar.
Hemel replaced Danny Talbot
with new signing Moussa Diarra
in an effort to stem the flow as Arlesey pushed on. Roberts won another corner after good work by Farrell that was cleared Arlesey replaced Jemal Johnson with Jeanmal Prosper.
With almost his first touch Prosper put a good ball into Roberts who looped a good ball in that looked to be going in but for another great save from Beagle to concede the corner. From this Roberts dropped in just about the perfect ball which at least 3 Arlesey forwards launched themselves at but Dillon got the vital touch to push it past Beagle and give the home side a 3-1 lead.
Arlesey were now oozing confidence, Goss made another great run down the left and beat 2 defenders, he hit a good cross/shot in toward Roberts but Beagle made a great save down by his post. Roberts won another corner from a good shot but Hemel were now having to defend in numbers and the ball was crowded out.
As the game drew into its final few minutes a good cross in from the right found Nolan but he was well blocked out by Blackett for a corner. From this Hatch headed clear but it was delivered back in and this time Abbey was unable to claim it and it came to Pearce but his shot was wide of the post.
In the 89th minute Parks hit a great shot from outside the box that was dropping in under the bar until Abbey pushed it over the bar with a great save.
With normal time up Aston Goss who had got a knock went off and was replaced by Chris Marsh but he didn’t have very much chance to do a lot as soon after the ref blew for full time.