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Dartford 1 Hemel Hempstead Town 3

Match Report by Allan Mitchell

Every now and then you realise why you love football and how you get through all the low, desperate moments, it's because occasionally and often unexpectedly, a result and performance like this happens.

To say Dartford were in good form would be something of an understatement, unbeaten in five games, hadn’t lost a home in the league since August and were sitting pretty at the top of the Vanarama national League South. They had also just completed an 8-1 aggregate Christmas double over their nearest challengers for the title, Ebbsfleet United. Add into the mix the fact that Hemel have never won a game at Princes Park and you could say that the odds were very much against the visitors.

There had already been good early signs in new Boss Brad Quinton’s reign, that he wanted his side to be fitter, work harder as a unit and pass the ball more, he definitely wants the players to be united in their efforts on the pitch and this was a perfect example of what can be achieved when everyone pulls in the same direction.

There was a strong breeze blowing down the pitch at the start of the match and it was Hemel who found that clearing their lines from the back was going to be a challenge. Dartford however had the opposite problem with their attempts at a long through ball being thwarted as it ran down the slope and away from their chasing forwards.

New striker Kaylen Hinds had the first attempt on goal for Hemel after 3 minutes when his shot from the edge of the box was deflected out for a corner.

The Darts were struggling to put any passing together early on but they did get a chance when they were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box on 25 minutes. Ex-Tudor Samir Carruthers had punished them earlier in the season from the same position so the Tudor Army feared the worse, he stepped up and curled the ball over the wall but Craig King managed to get across to save it comfortably.

The lively Hinds then caused some more problems for the home side when he combined well with Josh Castiglione in the six yard box, his shot was blocked by the keeper and there followed a bit of a scramble before it was cleared.

Minutes later Hemel got the goal their efforts deserved, new signing Josh Williams picked up a poor clearance and looked up before putting the ball into the middle of penalty box, it skimmed off the head of a Darts defender to Jack Westbrook at the back post and he reacted superbly to direct his header home.

The lead was only short lived however when Dartford were awarded a free kick out on the right, they are a big side and those big guns lined up in the six yard box. The ball was curled in and another ex-Tudor, centre half Connor Essam was given too much room and he took full advantage, heading home from close range on 35 minutes to level the scores.

Hemel re-grouped and the game remained fairly even after this and looked to be heading for the interval all square but right on 45 minutes Kyle O’Connor-Ajayi stunned the home crowd when he picked the ball on the edge of the box, flicked it up and volleyed superbly into the top corner to restore Hemel’s lead. It was the perfect time to score and the very noisy Hemel fans behind the goal, started to believe that something special was going to happen.

Dartford came out in the second half and abandoned their long ball tactics in favour of a more possession based approach and they did enjoy long periods of control without really troubling the superbly organised Hemel back line. Goal hero Ajayi had to leave the pitch early on with a slight hamstring niggle but The Tudors had a very able replacement in Kory Roberts who slotted in perfectly. He became a hero himself when he just got his head to shot from Luke Coulson, that looked destined for the top corner, the ball diverting over the bar.

Dartford started to get increasingly desperate in their attacks whilst Hemel looked reasonably comfortable, although you felt a third goal would settle the nerves somewhat. That goal came in the 87th minute after Craig King had cleared into the Dartford half, the ball ran away into the corner and really should have been dealt with but Kaylen Hinds saw the defender trying to shepherd it out and pinched off him, he cut inside before laying it back to debutee Jeremie Mukendi, who hit first time, the keeper dived to his right but it took a big deflection and diverted into the other corner, much to the delight of the Tudors fans behind the goal.

Despite an unbelievable 7 minutes of injury time Hemel held out comfortably to take the points, with many Darts fans having left the stadium before the final whistle. Two wins on the bounce for new Boss Brad Quinton and easily the most impressive result and performance of the season so far.

Hemel: Craig King; Andrew Eletheriou, Williams, Westbrokk, O’Connor-Ajayi (Kory Roberts) Josh Hill; Godrey Poku, Mathew Young (Perri Iandolo) Josh Castiglione (Jeremie Mukuendi) Charlee Hughes, Kaylen Hinds. Subs not used: Kane Lewis, Luke Holness.

Attendance 1273. Tudors Man of the Match; a tough one to call but I gave it to Kaylen Hinds who never stopped working throughout the 90+ minutes


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