Braintree Town 3 Hemel Hempstead Town 1
Vanarama National League South Fixture - Saturday 30th April 2022
Match report by Allan Mitchell
Braintree secured their National League South status with a comfortable win against a somewhat lacklustre Hemel side, who were forced into a number of changes due to injury and suspensions.
Manager Mark Jones gave first starts to keeper David Saunders and young Polish defender Kacper Gruszczynski (a pre-match announcer pronunciation nightmare right there). In addition, there was a welcome return for Kyle Ajayi after a long spell out through injury.
The game was pretty nondescript for the first half-hour, but that all changed in a couple of minutes when Braintree took advantage of some sloppy defending by the visitors.
The first goal came in the 28th minute when a hopeful through ball just wasn’t dealt with, and Khale Da Costa skipped into the box before planting the ball past David Saunders.
A quick breakaway down the left stretched Hemel just two minutes later, and as the ball came in, it was met by Da Costa, who volleyed his shot goalwards. Hemel’s young keeper Saunders did superbly tip it onto the post but could not prevent Gio Chrichlow from firing the rebound into the empty net.
As the half-time whistle blew, the healthy contingent of Tudors fans were left to reflect that their side had failed to muster a single attempt on goal in the first period.
The second half saw Hemel improve, and they started to create some chances, but Braintree always looked the more likely to score on the counter.
A good example came when Braintree took a quick throw out on the right, which caught the Hemel backline by surprise, and Luke Holness was allowed a free run at goal. The Iron striker took it slightly wide as Saunders closed him down, and his shot hit the side netting.
Skipper Sam Mantom had the visitor’s first real effort on goal when he tried an audacious shot from inside his own half after spotting Johnson off his line, the Braintree keeper had to hurry back before pushing it out for what should have been a corner, but the assistant, who was also caught by surprise and was still upfield, gave a goal kick much to the bemusement of the Tudors fans behind the goal.
Hemel finally got back into the game just past the hour mark when a Chris Paul free-kick was met by Gus Scott-Morriss, who powered his header home.
This saw the Tudors push forward in search of an equaliser.
Still, apart from a potential penalty shout when Fasanmade appeared to be tripped in the box, they rarely troubled Billy Johnson in the Braintree goal.
You always felt that they would grab a third with their pacey counter-attacks, and in the 87th minute, they did just that when another error by the Hemel backline allowed Chrichlow to break into the box before sliding the ball past Saunders to put the game to bed.
Manager Jones said he was bitterly disappointed by the result and said the showing by his side was “very poor” He felt that the three players who came in, Saunders, Gruszczynski and Ajayi did well under the circumstances but the team as a whole needs to reflect on their performance which just wasn’t good enough.
They need to put it behind them quickly; however, as next up is promotion-chasing Havant and Waterlooville on Bank Holiday Monday at Vauxhall Road.
The big-spending Hampshire side will be looking to grab the three points that would secure their play-off place.
Hemel: Saunders, Scott-Morriss, Gruszczynski, Westbrook, Ajayi, Nembhard, Morgan-Griffiths, Gardiner-Smith, (Paul 55), Mantom, Hughes, (Fonkeu 73), Cerulli, (Fasanmade 73) Subs not used: Bunga, King.
Attendance 548 Tudors Man of the Match: Gus Scott-Morriss
Match rating 3/5 Attendance 548