Dorking Wanderers 2 Hemel Hempstead Town 1
Vanarama National League South 12th March 2022
Match report by Mitch
This was always going to be a tough fixture for the Tudors, facing league leaders Dorking who had won 13 out of 14 home games before this one.
They won’t have had a better chance of upsetting the form book, though, as the home side were reduced to ten men as early as the second minute after keeper Dan Lincoln tripped Pierre Fonkeu. The new Tudors striker had raced onto a through ball before taking it round the keeper; as he lined up his shot, Lincoln stuck a foot out and brought him down, just on the edge of the box.
The referee wasted no time in producing a red card, and with no keeper on the bench, leading goalscorer Alfie Rutherford stepped up to don the jersey. It was the worst possible start for Dorking, but they rose to the task manfully, and it has to be said, there were times in the first period that you struggled to tell who had the ten men.
Rutherford’s first real action came in the 7th minute when a Samir Carruthers shot took a deflection before looping up towards the top corner. The sub keeper backtracked and just managed to get a hand on the ball.
After this, the ten men really upped the game, protecting their goal and playing some decent football going forward, moving the ball around at pace.
Davide Rodari got on the end of a corner in the tenth minute powering his header onto the bar to send out a warning signal that they weren’t going to sit back and defend.
They took the lead just six minutes later when a great run down the left by the excellent Nicky Wheeler saw him drive into the box before cutting the ball across the face of the goal, where it was met by Josh Taylor, who just got in front of his man to tuck it home at the near post.
Rutherford got very fortunate in the 23rd minute when Craig Fasanmade made room for himself inside the six-yard box, spinning and firing in a shot from point-blank range, hitting the stand-in keeper in the face before deflecting away.
Dorking continued to threaten up the other end, and it was Hemel’s turn to be on the end of some good fortune when Craig King came to collect a cross. As he did, he collided with one of his own defenders, and the ball dropped to Rodari, who poked the ball goalwards where it was blocked, but it then fell to Philipot, who somehow smashed the ball over from just six yards.
As the half-time whistle went, the Tudors fans were slightly relieved that their side was only going in one goal behind.
Manager Mark Jones made a change at the break, bringing on the returning Sam Mantom in place of Jacob Gardiner-Smith, but before he could make any difference, the home side extended their lead just two minutes in. They had a free-kick some 35 yards out in a central area that looked harmless enough, but it was fired into skipper Ed Harris who rose in front of his marker and powered his header past King.
It could and should have got a lot worse in the 53rd minute when Dorking were awarded a penalty after a clumsy challenge in the box, there were few complaints from the Hemel players, and the game looked like it was going to be put well and truly out of reach. Still, Craig King went the right way and saved the spot-kick to give the Tudors a much-needed lift.
Hemel started to assert themselves after this and pretty much camped themselves in the Dorking half as their opponents started to tire.
They still hadn’t managed to give Rutherford any real problems up to this point with any efforts on goal either going high, wide or straight at the sub goalminder before. Then, somewhat out of the blue, they got a lifeline through defender Joash Nembhard who received the ball some 30 yards out; he looked up, and after watching his teammates fail to trouble the goal, he launched it into the top corner, causing the home support to get a bit twitchy with still ten minutes left to play.
It was all Hemel now, but they were still struggling to get past a dogged defence who were still fighting and scrapping for every ball.
As the clock ticked into injury time, Pierre Fonkeu found himself unmarked at the back post from a corner; his first-time effort hit the underside of the bar before bouncing out to Alfie Cerulli, who had more time than he thought, but in the moment, he snatched at it somewhat, and it flew agonisingly over the bar with the keeper beaten.
That proved to be the last real chance of the game as Dorking held on to grab all three points, and with Maidstone losing, they extended their lead at the top to three points.
All in all, a disappointing day for the Tudors and Mark Jones reflected after the game that it wasn’t for lack of effort on the day, but they couldn’t find that little bit of quality needed to break Dorking down.
Hemel: Craig King, Gus Scott-Morriss © Joash Nembhard, Dominic Morgan-Griffiths, Jack Westbrook, Cole Kpekawa (Dan Wishart) Samir Curruthers, Jacob Gardiner-Smith (Sam Mantom) Pierre Fonkeu, Chris Paul (Alfie Cerulli) Craig Fasanmade. Subs not used: Max Rosner, David Saunders.
Attendance: 1301 Tudors Star Man: Jack Westbrook.