Hemel Hempstead Town 2 Slough Town 2
Vanarama National League South 11/12/2021
Match report by Allan Mitchell
Slough will be the happier of the two sides after an eventful game at Vauxhall Road that saw the referee dish out two red cards, including former Tudor Jonathan North, who was in goal for Slough. North normally has a habit of coming back to Hemel and playing a blinder, but on this occasion, he was dismissed just after the hour mark after a mix up at the back caused him to handle the ball outside his area, preventing a goalscoring opportunity.
Hemel controlled the first period, but as so often happens at home, they missed several chances to take the lead.
It was a quiet start for both sides, although Alfie Cerulli was sent clear on four minutes, he looked offside, but the flag stayed down, Cerulli could have taken another touch but didn’t realise how much time he had and decided to shoot first time, dragging it well wide.
This seemed to wake Hemel from their slumbers, and they started to knock the ball around, with Josh Castiglione really looking the part now he has been given a run in the side. He was brought down on the edge of the box and up stepped Samir Carruthers, who smacked the free-kick against the foot of the post with North beaten.
However, it was a case of ‘déjà vu’ when Slough scored with their first real attack after 17 minutes when George Hunt slotted home a Tenconi cross in a move that split Hemel’s backline down the right.
Hemel have a newfound confidence these days, and they continued to press with Mantom, Castiglione and Carruthers coming close before a wonder strike by Mantom levelled the scores on the half-hour mark. It was a superb move started by Cerulli, who sent the ball across to Castiglione; he laid it into the path of Mantom, who drove into the box before smashing it into the top corner to give the Tudors a deserved equaliser.
The second half started much like the first but burst into life when Slough took the lead again, in an almost comical fashion. An attempted clearance from Carruthers skidded off his head and went backwards with the Hemel backline pushing out; Joash Nembhard had to turn and race back but was under pressure from Tenconi; he tried to knock it back to the onrushing Hayes, but it didn’t have the pace to reach him, and Tenconi managed to get a foot on the ball flicking it past the keeper, it wasn’t easy to see who got the last touch, but Tenconi claimed it for his second goal.
Slough were reduced to 10 men two minutes later when North was sent off when he handled the ball outside the box, and with no sub keeper on the bench, Mathew Lench had to don the jersey. Every Hemel fan felt that the resulting free-kick just had to be on target with Lench between the sticks, but Kpekawa put it into the stand behind the goal.
Mantom thought he had equalised minutes later, but Lench pulled off a superb one-handed save, pushing the powerful drive over the bar and with Hemel piling forward, Castiglione then saw his shot go just wide.
As the clock ticked down, the home side were finding it hard to break down the packed Slough defence, who protected Lench superbly, and it looked as though the ten men would hold on, but in the 85th minute, a corner caused a melee in the six-yard box, a couple of efforts were blocked before it fell to Cole Kpekawa who stabbed it home much to the relief of the Hemel faithful.
Carruthers was sent off for a late challenge a couple of minutes later when he overstretched for a loose ball catching Kuhl late; the Slough midfielder had some lengthy treatment but was able to continue. Then, right at the death, Kyle Ajayi rose to meet a Kpekawa cross but couldn’t keep his header down, the ball flying just over the bar. That signalled the end of the game, and the Tudors were frustratingly denied that first home league win this season.
Manager Mark Jones felt they had done enough to win the game, but he wasn’t too pleased with his sides overall performance; apart from a good 20 minutes in the first period, he felt they were a bit anxious, and maybe the lack of a home win is starting to play on the players’ minds.
Surely it is only a matter of time before they get that result with two more home games coming up. A big blow for Jones was losing new striker Alex Addai to injury in the first half, which will be reviewed in the week, and he is hopeful it’s nothing too serious.
Hemel: Hayes, Scott-Morriss, Simpson, Kpekawa, Nembhard, Morgan-Griffiths, (Maghoma 84), Castiglione, Carruthers, Mantom, Cerulli, Addai (Robins 45 ) (Ajayi 85) Subs not used: King, Prosper.
Attendance 492 Match Rating 4/5