Hemel Hempstead Town 1 Hungerford Town 0
Vanarama National League South – Tuesday 25th January 2022
Match Report by Allan Mitchell
Tudors captain Gus Scott-Morriss posted on his Twitter account after the game that it was ‘good to win ugly’, and that was a fair way to sum up this result.
It followed a tough fixture at Tonbridge, and it was a very similar affair to the match down in Kent, with Hemel very much in charge for the first period but finding themselves having to defend more in the second.
The visitors made a lively start to the game and could have opened the scoring after just two minutes when a cross from the left found almost found Rhys Tyler, who would have had a tap in, but a desperate block by Joash Nembhard prevented it from reaching him and it was cleared after a scramble in and around the six-yard box.
Hemel settled after this early scare, and in the ninth minute, a superb cross from Josh Castiglione was met at the near post by Scott-Morriss, who couldn’t quite direct his header on target, and it flew wide.
The Tudors skipper had another chance in the 15th minute when he drove into the box after some excellent work by Dominic Morgan-Griffiths down the right, he managed to find the target this time, but Luke Cairney saved well for Hungerford.
There was a shout for a penalty when Castiglione looked to have been tripped, and there were further chances for Chris Paul, Samir Carruthers, Charlee Hughes and Scott-Morris again. Still, the Tudors were failing to really test the keeper despite their dominance, and the half time whistle blew with the scores still level.
The second half almost started with a bang, and it was Hungerford who almost broke the deadlock when James Rusby received the ball on the left and drove into the Hemel penalty area at pace; he found enough space to get a powerful shot away, but it was straight at Craig King who parried it before grabbing it at the second attempt.
Hemel were struggling to get going in the second period, and it was Rusby again who really should have put his side in front when he met a free-kick with his head, arriving unmarked at the back post, but he put the ball into the stand when it looked easier to score.
With twenty minutes left on the clock, the game was settling down and looked like it was going to end in a stalemate when out of the blue, Hemel were awarded a penalty. Castiglione did well down the left, chasing what looked to be a lost cause as the ball headed for the touchline.
He retrieved it and cut inside the defender who had been caught on his toes, before driving in a cross that another defender in front of him blocked, it looked as though it struck a hand, and the referee, who was very well placed, didn’t waste any time in pointing to the spot.
Hungerford complained bitterly, but the decision stood and up stepped Hughes, who had been waiting for what seemed an age to take the kick. If he had been affected by the delay, it didn’t show as he sent Cairney the wrong way to give the Tudors the lead.
Hungerford regrouped and started to press Hemel back as the clock ticked down. They missed another glorious chance to level the game when ex-Tudor Jake Evans found Kyle Bailey in acres of space inside the six-yard box, but he completely misdirected his header well wide of the post.
With the pressure mounting, a free-kick from the left was cleared, but Chris Paul was left in a heap on the edge of the box in the melee.
The Tudors midfielder has had long periods out of the game this season with an ankle injury, and it looked ominous as he held his leg in obvious pain. After some lengthy treatment, he returned to the pitch but looked in serious discomfort, but with all three substitutions being made, he was asked to go up front just to occupy the Hungerford defenders.
He did this manfully, and the injury came frustratingly as he was getting back to his best form. However, after the game, it was confirmed that it was the troublesome ankle again, and he faces more time on the touchline, joining skipper Sam Mantom on the long term injury list.
Hungerford huffed and puffed, and despite effectively playing the last fifteen minutes with ten men, Hemel held out and made it two wins out of two at home, pushing them into tenth place just one point behind their local rivals St Albans City.
Hemel: Craig King, Gus Scott-Morriss ©, Dominic Morgan-Griffiths, Jack Westbrook, Cole Kpekawa, Samir Carruthers, (Alfie Williams 70), Chris Paul, Alex Addai, (Alfie Cerulli 70), Charlee Hughes, Josh Castiglione, (Dan Wishart 75), Joash Nembhard. Subs not used: Jeanmal Prosper, Jacob Gardiner- Smith)
Attendance 406 Tudors Man of the Match – Dominic Morgan-Griffiths.