Ebbsfleet United 3 Hemel Hempstead Town 1
Vanarama National League South 28th August 2021
Match Report by Allan Mitchell
It is always difficult to find positives in defeat, especially as this was the Tudors’ third on the bounce, but once again, there were moments in this game that could have made all the difference to the final result.
This isn’t to say that Ebbsfleet were not worthy winners because they were. They are another club with National League Premier Division ambitions, with an excellent setup, and they will be more than a match for a lot of sides this season. Hemel’s two away fixtures at the start of this campaign couldn’t have been much more challenging; adding in the already well-publicised injury list, it’s fair to say they wouldn’t have expected much from either game, and that’s how it has panned out.
As with the Maidstone fixture, Hemel started brightly and could have gone in front after just 20 seconds when Samir Carruthers threaded a ball through to Ky Marsh-Brown, who raced clear; unfortunately, he took the ball slightly wide but still had the chance to curl it in at the far post but he miss-hit his shot, and it flew well wide. Maybe it was a case of the chance coming too early in the game, but it summed up the season so far.
Ebbsfleet clearly had a way of playing which involved lots of possession, but the Tudors pressed them well, and the first half was pretty even. Fleet did hit the post through Lee Martin after 10 minutes with their first effort on goal, which was a warning for Hemel.
Dominic Poleon was proving to be the danger man, and he had a couple more efforts blocked as Fleet upped the tempo. With the interval approaching, they took the lead, and it was Poleon who finally broke clear of the backline and made no mistake on 41 minutes, tucking the ball past the advancing Patching.
Hemel had a chance to level before the break when Nathan Cooper rose well to meet a Carruthers free-kick, but he could only head it straight into the keepers’s arms.
The visitors made two changes at half-time, bringing on Henry Ochieng and James Dobson for James Kaloczi and Kyle Ajayi, and it took time for those players to get in the game as Fleet took control.
They still hadn’t really threatened Lewis Patching, who was making his debut in the Tudors goal, but that changed just before the hour mark when the young keeper knocked the ball out wide to Jack Williams, who was caught off balance and quickly closed down, it was delivered into the box and a lovely backheel set up Adam Mekki who drove the ball past Patching to make it 2–0.
With no recognised forwards on the pitch, Hemel were now facing an uphill task but, somewhat against the run of play, they pulled a goal back when Cole Kpekawa volleyed home a James Dobson corner on 68 minutes.
This didn’t really alter the game, though, as Fleet stepped up the pressure again, and they restored their two-goal advantage shortly after when a good move down the left saw the ball delivered across to Lee Martin, who tapped home from close range.
Another defeat and zero points on the board but still a very long way to go, and with players now looking to return after injury, the Tudor Army will be hoping that it won't be too long before they start their season.
Hemel: Patching, Scott-Morriss, Williams, Kaloczi (Dobson) Cooper, Kpekawa, Carruthers (Cerulli) Gleeson, Ajayi (Ochieng) Lacey, Marsh-Brown. Subs not used: Castiglione, Hayes (GK)
Tudors Man of the Match: Ky Marsh-Brown.