St Albans City 2 Hemel Hempstead Town 1 Vanarama National League South – January 1st 2023 Match Report by Allan Mitchell In front of a crowd over 3,000 on New Year’s Day, St Albans completed the first ever double between these two teams although much like the first game at Vauxhall Road, there was little between the sides. After City had made a bright start it was Hemel who had the first decent opportunity when Elliott Romain looked to have beaten the offside trap, City keeper Dylan Berry raced out of his area and Romain tried to flick the ball past the onrushing keeper but Berry crashed into the Tudors striker and ended in a heap. It looked very much like Berry’s momentum had caused the collision but the referee saw it differently, awarding a free kick to City and booking the unfortunate Romain in the process. Berry needed some lengthy treatment after the incident. With game now very even, Hemel took the lead. Brooklyn Ilunga was pulled back as he threatened to race clear through the middle. Josh Castiglione put the resulting free kick into the box where it flicked off a City defender and landed at the feet of Jack Westbrook who tucked it home at the back post.
A couple of minutes later, a long clearance up the line was chased down superbly by Romain when the ball had looked as though it was going out, he quickly threaded it through to Ilunga who raced into the box with just Berry to beat, he looked to knock past him but the City stopper stuck out a leg and diverted the ball away from goal. A second goal would certainly have put The Tudors in the ascendancy but it wasn’t to be and the escape seemed to wake The Saints from their slumbers. They had a great chance just a couple of minutes later when Joy Mukena rose to meet a corner unchallenged but he couldn’t keep it down and it hit the woodwork with Craig King grabbing the loose ball. The Saints closed the half on the front foot but couldn’t find an equaliser and Hemel went in at the break a goal to the good.
Under recently departed manager Mark Jones the Tudors had developed a habit of conceding goals at the start of the second period and with new Boss Brad Quinton in charge the Tudor Army were hoping that would be one area of concern that could be avoided but it wasn’t to be as City equalised on 48 minutes. Hemel had conceded an unnecessary free kick out on the right, the ball came in and was only half cleared, it went back out to the right and with time and space Devante Stanley clipped it the back post where Mamadou Jobe headed home via the crossbar. It was just the lift City needed and they started to pass the ball around well although they weren’t really causing too many problems whilst the Tudors still looked threatening on the counter and it was just after a decent chance for Hemel that The Saints went in front. Hemel had possession in the middle of the park but a poor pass allowed Zane Banton to intercept and drive down the left, he scuffed his cross somewhat but it still found Shaun Jeffers who got a shot away under pressure, it took a deflection off a defender, leaving King wrong footed, before dropping into the corner.
There were chance at both ends with City missing a good opportunity when Joe Neal seized onto another poor pass and broke clear but he put his shot wide of the post. The Tudors had two late chances, with Dara Dada seeing his goal bound shot blocked and in the last seconds Luke Holness beat the offside trap and raced towards goal, he cut inside and tried to curl the ball inside the far post but it drifted wide and with that the referee called a halt to the game.
Manager Brad Quinton reflected afterwards that he felt it was a game his new side deserved something but he was pleased with the work rate and all round effort. He is looking forward to spending more time with the players over the coming week, having only had one training session with them prior to this encounter. Hemel: Craig King; Andrew Eleftheriou, Jernade Meade, Kyle Ajayi, Jack Westbrook; Godfrey Poku (Charlee Hughes) Dom Morgan-Griffiths, Brooklyn Ilunga (Dara Dada) Josh Castiglione, Elliott Romain (Luke Holness) Subs not used: Bayley Brown, Josh Lelan. Attendance 3107 Tudors Man of the Match: Jack Westbrook.