St Albans 2 Hemel Hempstead Town 1
A frustrating afternoon in front of a crowd approaching 1500 saw Hemel lose to their neighbours for the first time since 2012.
Boosted by a healthy following of Tudors fans it was the visitors who dominated the game for large periods, with City relying on the pace of their forwards on the counter. Steve Cawley had two decent chances in the first couple of minutes, the first was blocked and from the resulting corner he saw his header go wide after he found himself unmarked in the six yard box.
Another corner for the Tudors was met by Darren Ward and he laid it back once again to Cawley but his shot went wide. Cawley, who could have a had a hatrick by now, managed to get his head to a ball from Kyle Connolly after some excellent build up play, but the full back just over hit his cross and Hemel’s centre forward could only put it over the bar.
After 20 minutes and very much against the run of play, St Albans predictably scored when Darren Ward misjudged a long ball that flicked off his head into the path of former Tudor David Moyo, who outpaced Yakubu before shooting across Walker, the City man enjoying his celebration in front of the away fans. It was their first shot on target and Hemel were already ruing their missed opportunities.
It was harsh on The Tudors but they continued to take the game to the home side and create openings. Jack Snelus and Sanchez Watt both had half chances before they deservedly drew level when a quickly taken free kick caught City off guard and Rob Sinclair raced clear before tucking the ball under Snedker on 34 minutes. They really should have gone in front minutes later when a superb passing move involving Cawley and Watt set up Sinclair again, he tried to repeat his earlier effort by shooting low but Snedker was wise to it and saved well with his legs. A real let off for City again. St Albans had a rare foray towards the end of the half and another ex Tudor Zane Banton found himself unmarked at the back post but he shot wide.
In the second half City started the better of the two sides and had two early chances. Lewis Knight got on the end of a sliced clearance and his first time volley was blocked and sub Solomon Sambou then had a decent effort well saved by Walker.
Then came a period in which Hemel really should have put the game to bed. Kyle Connolly played a neat one two which carved the home defence open and with the keeper to beat he opted to place the ball rather than put his foot through it and it deflected off a backtracking defender and went agonisingly wide. Sanchez Watt then had another one on one with Snedker who once gain blocked his shot well and as the ball looped up Cawley curled the ball over the bar with his first time shot.
Sanchez Watt was proving to be a real threat now and he had another excellent drive pushed away by the excellent Snedker who was keeper City in the game against his former club. Unfortunately Watt was returning from a long term injury and he had to be taken off on the hour mark. This seemed to take the steam out of Hemel’s attacks and St Albans started to get more of the ball. Banton and Moyo both had efforts blocked or saved but the game appeared to be drifting to yet another draw at this stage.
Then Khale Da-Costa who had always threatened down the right with his pace, managed to make a break down that side, Jordan Parkes tried to cut him off but only succeeded in bring him down, receiving a yellow card for the challenge. From the resulting free kick, Moyo got in front of his marker and flicked the ball into the top corner to give City the lead with just 10 minutes left.
Hemel never really looked like getting the obligatory equaliser that has been a fixture of these games over the years and City saw the game out comfortably to record their second win on the bounce and the first in six years over their neighbours. It’s an old cliché but The Tudors were left to ponder what might have been if they had taken their chances but they have a chance to put it right on New Years Day in the return fixture at Vauxhall Road.
Hemel: Walker 7 Howe 7 Connolly 7 Parkes © 8 Ward 7 Yakubu 7 Sanchez-Watt 7 (Knowles 6) Shulton 7 Cawley 7 Sinclair 8 (Tomlinson 6) Snelus 7 Subs not used : Swain, Kaloczi, Osborn.
Attendance 1,486 Tudors Man of the Match : Jordan Parkes