Eastbourne Borough 1 Hemel Hempstead Town 0
Vanarama National League South – 29.01.2022
Match Report by Allan Mitchell
Mark Jones's unbeaten away record ended on a frustrating afternoon down on the South Coast as the ten men of Eastbourne snatched all three points with their only effort on goal in the second half.
The Sports made the better start, although Charlee Hughes had a decent chance in the tenth minute when he met a cross from Jacob Gardiner-Smith with his head, but he got under the ball and headed it over the bar.
Lincoln City-bound Charley Kendall started to cause a few problems down Hemel's left. He forced a good save out of Craig King, and the resulting corner was met by Steven James, whose flicked header just skimmed the crossbar.
King then had to make another smart save from Charlie Walker, who probably should have done better when he arrived unmarked at the back post.
Somewhat against the run of play, Hughes was put clean through the middle on 28 minutes, and as he drove into the box, Greg Luer somewhat cynically tripped the Hemel forward as he honed down on goal. Referee Jack Packman didn't hesitate in pointing to the spot and produced a red card for Luer.
Hughes, who had scored the winner on Tuesday from the spot, stepped up, but Borough keeper Lee Worgan read the kick and saved to his left, much to the delight of the Eastbourne supporters.
After this setback, there was that nagging reminder that Hemel don't have a great record against ten men this season, but with over an hour to play, you felt that this was a great opportunity for them to go on to and win the game.
The home side had other ideas, though, and they almost took the lead when Joel Rollinson broke down the left and fired in a shot from a tight angle; the ball beat King but hit the outside of the post and went away for a goal kick.
Hughes and Samir Carruthers had chances before the break, with the latter seeing his shot get cleared off the line before the referee called a halt to the half, and the two sides went in all square.
The second period saw the Tudors 'encamped' in the Eastbourne half, but they found the home side in no mood to lie down easily.
The ten men were really throwing everything into defending their goal, with Gus Scott-Morriss, Carruthers and Hughes all having efforts blocked. Carruthers seemed to be on permanent corner duty at this stage as Hemel pressed and pressed.
On 54 minutes and in a rare foray into the Tudors half, Borough broke out from one of those Hemel corners, shifting the ball quickly down the right; with the defence backtracking, it was delivered across the face of the goal, and Rollinson arrived completely unmarked at the back post to plant a simple header past King to give them an unlikely lead.
After this setback, Hemel regrouped, and Jones rang the changes, bringing on the two Alfie's, Cerulli and Williams, and they started to give Borough some problems. Hughes thought he had equalised just on the hour mark when he hit a volley in at close range, only to see Worgan stick a hand up and deflect it onto the bar.
The pressure continued as the clock ticked down, and Cerulli saw his superb curling effort brilliantly saved by Worgan again. Carruthers had a decent chance with a couple of minutes left but failed to get any power on his shot, allowing Worgan to save easily.
Worgan had to tip a Cole Kpewawa cross over from under the bar in injury time, but that was about it, and the brave rearguard action from the Sports held out to take the points and leapfrog Hemel in the table.
Manager Mark Jones summed the game up, saying it was "One of those days where they just couldn't find the finish to get them back into the game, pointing out that Borough's keeper was the man of the match and on another day they could have won comfortably".
He didn't feel that his side deserved to lose, but these things happen, and he reminded supporters that we are in the middle of a good run, so don't get too downhearted. Next up is Billericay at home after a midweek County Cup game at Cheshunt, who put St Albans to the sword in the previous round, so it won't be an easy fixture.
Hemel: Craig King, Gus Scott-Morriss, Jack Westbrook, Cole Kpekawa, Joash Nembhard, Dan Wishart, (Aaron Simpson), Dominic Morgan-Griffiths, Jacob Gardiner-Smith, (Alfie Williams), Alex Addai, (Alfie Cerulli), Charlee Hughes. Subs not used: Josh Castiglione, Nick Hayes.
Crowd 682 Tudors Man of the Match: Joash Nembhard.