Hemel Hempstead Town 0 Chippenham Town 2
Vanarama National League South Saturday 18th December 2021
Match report by Allan Mitchell
Both sides were able to field a starting eleven for this game, which was under some doubt due to positive Covid tests and injuries in both camps, resulting in several omissions.
Tudors boss Mark Jones was one of those missing after he had tested positive, so his brother, assistant manager Dan Jones took the reins.
Both teams had academy players on their respective benches, with Chippenham naming five in their subs line-up.
Hemel welcomed back Kyle Ajayi after a long spell on the sidelines through injury, but he was short on match fitness and had to play in centre-midfield, which wasn’t ideal for his first game back.
The Tudors certainly missed the creativity of Samir Carruthers, who was serving the first game of his three-match suspension after his red card against Slough.
The first half looked more like a pre-season friendly as both sides created little with lots of passes going astray.
However, the Bluebirds could have taken an early lead after Lawal skipped past Nick Hayes before laying the ball back to Griffiths, who poked the ball goalwards, only to see Cole Kpekawa get back and clear it off the line.
That was about it apart from a Griffiths header which went straight into the arms of Hayes and an Ajayi shot, which found the back of the net, but unfortunately, it was the one above the stand, not the one between the posts.
As the half-time interval approached, Hemel’s backline parted like the Red Sea to allow Griffiths to run unchallenged from the halfway line before tucking the ball past Hayes to give the visitors a lead that they barely deserved.
Still, it summed up Hemel’s misfortunes at Vauxhall Road, and that elusive first home win looked as though it was disappearing into the mist that surrounded the ground.
Sam Mantom almost got the Tudors back into the game just two minutes into the second period, but his powerful shot was deflected away for a corner.
In the 53rd minute, Chippenham were given a free-kick that should have been taken on the halfway line, but they pinched several yards from under the nose of the officials. As the ball came in, their skipper Parselle met it with his head, and it crashed against the post before bouncing away.
Just five minutes later, Griffiths was sent from the field of play when he appeared to aim a headbutt at Joash Nembhard, so the Tudors found themselves with a man advantage for the second week running.
It didn’t seem to affect the course of play as Hemel struggled to make any inroads, although the keeper fumbled a Reece Robins shot, the ball bouncing off his knee as Sam Mantom followed up, but he missed his attempt completely, and the danger was cleared.
The referee seemed intent on booking any minor discretion, and he showed a second yellow to Nembhard in the 70th minute, which took the officials total to six yellows and two reds in a game that could hardly be described as physical.
Chippenham always looked the most likely to add to their score, with Lawal hitting the post again before Alefe Santos ran unchallenged down the left before cutting into the box; he looked up and fired a shot in from a tight angle which took a slight deflection past Hayes to put the game to bed.
Dan Jones reflected and apologised to the Hemel fans after the game, refusing to blame the absentees for the result; it was just one of those games that they just failed to get going in. With some players having to fill positions that they would not usually play in, it was a case of a few round pegs in square holes, which meant the side looked somewhat disjointed at times.
Hemel: Hayes, Scott-Morriss, Castiglione, Ajayi, Westbrook, Kpekawa, Maghoma, (Paul), Mantom © Cerulli, Robins, (Holt), Nembhard Subs not used: Emovon, Jones, King (GK)
Attendance 452 Tudors Man of the Match: Josh Castiglione.