Hemel Hempstead Town 0 St Albans City 2
Vanarama National League South 22/02/2022
Match report by Mitch
St Albans gained sweet revenge after their defeat earlier in the season at the hands of the Tudors on what was a frustrating evening for Hemel. Even most City fans agreed it was something of a smash and grab as two late goals by leading goalscorer Shaun Jeffers sealed the points just when the game looked to be heading for a stalemate.
In front of the biggest Vauxhall Road crowd of the season, the home side took control of the affairs straight from the start, with Josh Castiglione firing wide after just three minutes and Alfie Cerulli almost getting on the end of a great through ball minutes later.
A big talking point in the first period came in the 18th minute when Craig Fasanmade broke clear of the City backline and honed down on goal, he was clattered into by Dave Diedhiou, who looked to have taken the man first before clearing the ball but the referee, who was well placed, waved away appeals. It was a massive decision as it could have resulted in a spot-kick and a potential red card for Diedhiou.
The Saints Twitter feed guy in front of us noted that it was a “clumsy challenge”, and Diedhiou was somewhat fortunate with the referee’s interpretation.
Cerulli had further chances to put Hemel in front in the first period, the best of which came when Michael Clark slipped when he tried to clear. Cerulli pounced but went for power rather than placement, and his shot went high and wide.
City’s first chance of the game came after 35 minutes when Hemel lost the ball on the halfway line, Joe Neal was onto it in a flash and drove upfield before curling a shot that looked to be going well wide, but it arced back and hit the outside of the post.
Hemel continued to dominate possession for the remainder of the half, but they failed to fully test Johnson in the Saints goal despite creating chances.
The second period started much the same as the first, and the Tudors faithful started to worry that they hadn’t broken the deadlock. Josh Castiglione had a great chance to do just that on 53 minutes, but his shot took a kind deflection that could have gone anywhere but ended up looping up into Johnson’s grateful arms with the keeper already committed.
Saints then stepped up a gear and forced a brief period of pressure with Cameron Green and Jeffers starting to get into the game.
Just after the hour mark, there came another controversial moment when Joash Nembhard drove in a shot at the back post, there was a huge appeal from supporters and players that it had struck a hand, but once again, the officials waved away the appeals much to the home side’s frustration.
City then took the lead at a point where Hemel dominated the game again. A goal kick from Johnson looked harmless enough, but it was fed through to Jeffers, who had a clear run on goal; as he was closed down, he drove the ball past King into the top corner to break the deadlock.
It was harsh on the Tudors, but the home fans’ worst fears had been realised as they had watched their side fail to capitalise on all their possession.
In the 80th minute, Hemel were convinced they had equalised when Fasanmade got in front of Johnson with his head, it looked to have crossed the line before a desperate City defender cleared it, and everyone behind the goal and all the home players celebrated. Still, the game continued with neither official giving the decision, and the game remained 1–0.
It looked like it was going to be one of those nights, which was confirmed when a superb Castiglione effort beat Johnson and looked to be heading for the bottom corner, but it just skidded wide of the post.
To add insult to injury and with Hemel pushing forward as the clock ticked down, Jeffers once again found himself in space on the edge of the box, and he calmly cut inside before sliding the ball into the bottom corner to put the game to bed, sending the healthy contingent of Saints fans into ecstasy behind the goal.
Manager Mark Jones reflected that he didn’t feel his side deserved to lose at the end of the game, but maybe they didn’t do quite enough to win the game. As for the decisions, he said they work themselves out over the season, but the goal-line clearance was disappointing.
Hemel: Craig King, Gus Scott-Morriss ©, Joash Nembhard, Dominic Morgan-Griffiths, Jack Westbrook, Cole Kpekawa, Samir Carruthers, (Chris Paul), Jacob Gardiner-Smith, (Jamie Jellis), Craig Fasanmade, Alfie Cerulli, (Dan Wishart), Josh Castiglione. Subs not used: Max Rosner, David Saunders (gk)
Attendance 1067: Tudors Man of the Match: Jacob Gardiner-Smith