Billericay Town 2 Hemel Hempstead Town 3
Vanarama National League South 25/09/2021
Match Report by Allan Mitchell
It seems to have been a long time since the travelling Tudor Army returned from a game with smiles on their faces, and they certainly made the most of this result as they celebrated with the players after the final whistle.
It's far too early in the season to describe this as a 'six pointer', but it was a massive game when you look at the start both sides had made, both sitting in the bottom two places with a point apiece.
New manager Mark Jones made three changes to his starting lineup after Tuesday's disappointing FA Cup defeat, a game which he had little time to prepare for. He welcomed back striker Freddie Hinds and Cambridge loanee Liam Bennett, and he gave a start to another loan signing, Tyrique Hyde, who arrived from Dartford.
Hemel kicked off in a diamond formation which seemed to work well at the start of the half, and they created a chance in the first minute, Sam Mantom seeing his shot well saved.
Just three minutes later, they took the lead when Chris Paul did well through the centre of the park before playing the ball out wide, Bennett crossed it in, and there was a bit of a scramble before it finally found its way to Hinds, who tucked it home from close range.
This seemed to wake Billericay from their slumbers, and they had a decent chance to equalise after Hemel failed to clear their lines, Joe Felix driving the ball wide when he really should have hit the target.
Samir Carruthers, who appeared to be enjoying his role in the middle of the diamond, then sent Aaron Simpson clear with a well-weighted pass; Simpson was quickly closed down by Ricay keeper Bailey Vose who did well to block his shot.
With the game now very much end to end, Billericay missed a glorious chance when the dangerous Bagasan Graham, who was causing problems down the left, crossed into the box; Darren Foxley rose unchallenged but put the ball wide of the post.
Cole Kpekawa then got on the end of a Carruthers free-kick, arriving on the penalty spot, but his first-time volley lacked power, and Vose saved comfortably.
As the interval approached, Ricay equalised, and it was Graham who was the provider, breaking down the left and planting the ball onto ex-Tudor Rowan Liburd's head, and he made no mistake burying it past Nick Hayes on 38 minutes.
With the home side now in the ascendancy, the Tudors fans were pleased to hear the half-time whistle, and the sides went into the break all square.
The second period was surprisingly quiet to start with, the home side not capitalising on their pre-half=time efforts, and it was Hemel who took the game by the scruff of the neck when they forced a couple of corners in quick succession. The first, on 52 minutes, was met by an unmarked James Kaloczi, who timed his run superbly, and he headed into the corner to give the Tudors the lead.
Just four minutes later, some neat interplay between Lacey and Bennett saw the young Cambridge loanee break into the box and get a shot away, Vose just managing to push it away.
Carruthers drove it into the near post from the resulting corner, where JJ Lacey brilliantly flicked his header past the Ricay keeper to give Hemel a two-goal cushion.
To their credit, Ricay did not give up, and Graham was still causing some problems down the left with his pace, and he managed to get to the byline again before crossing the ball right across the face of Hayes' goal, but there was no one there to get a touch on the ball.
The home side got back into the game on 75 minutes when a cross from the right wasn't dealt with, and the ball dropped kindly to Chambers, who tucked it home to give Ricay some hope.
However, it was Hemel who could have put the game to bed just a minute later when Alfie Cerulli turned superbly in the box before curling a shot past Vose, only to see it crash off the post and away.
Moments later, JJ found himself in space near the penalty spot; he drove his shot powerfully past the keeper but hit the underside of the bar and down. The Tudors fans behind the goal and the striker were convinced it was over the line, but no goal was given, and the game continued.
The game was again very much end to end, with both sides contributing to an entertaining game. Cerulli and Marsh-Brown had chances whilst Ricay also had two good opportunities, but Nick Hayes saved well on both occasions.
In the very last minute, the luck that had eluded Hemel all season finally went their way when Liburd missed another free header just yards out, glancing the ball wide, and the referee blew his whistle, much to the relief of everyone in red.
Three points on the board at last for Hemel, with new boss Mark Jones commenting, "Phew - is it always like this? I need a pint!
It's up to 19th for the Tudors and a break for a couple of weeks due to the exit out of the FA Cup. Next up is Jones' former club Oxford City at Vauxhall Road.
Hemel: Nick Hayes, Liam Bennett, Aaron Simpson, Chris Paul, James Kaloczi, Cole Kpekawa, Samir Carruthers (Dom Morgan-Griffiths) Sam Mantom © Freddie Hinds (Alfie Cerulli) JJ Lacey, Tyrique Hyde (Ky Marsh-Brown) Subs not used: Josh Castiglione, James Dobson.
Tudors Man of the Match: Aaron Simpson