Hemel Hempstead Town 1 St Albans City 1
Almost predictably it was honours even between the two local rivals in this New Year Day fixture as no less than 9 of the previous 13 games had also ended up level.
St Albans looked the stronger side in the first period but neither side did anything to trouble their respective keepers until the 26th minute when City won the first corner of the game. It was cleared for a throw in and they have a specialist in this area in the name of Sam Merson who launches the ball at pace into the opposition’s penalty area. He did the same thing here and it caused panic in Hemel’s back line as Lewis Knight won a header that was deflected onto the crossbar then bounced down onto the line before getting cleared.
This seemed to serve as a warning to Hemel and they started to get forward more. A superb move down the right involving Parkes and Howe ended up with the ball being laid across the penalty area where Parkes latched onto it but couldn’t keep his first time effort down and it curled over the bar. Then a through ball appeared to have been dealt with by Dean Snedker in City’s goal but he was pressured into a mistake by Connor Tomlinson who nicked the ball off the keeper and crossed into the box, it was met by a retreating St Albans defender who sliced the ball just over his own bar for a corner. The resulting kick was met by Darren Ward but his header went wide.
Just before the break Saints forced a corner themselves and it was only half cleared to Merson who hit it first time, but it struck one of his own players before rebounding to Soloman Sambou who drove the ball high and wide.
The second half started quietly with neither side creating much and on the hour mark Hemel brought on Sanchez Watt who immediately made an impact with his pace and trickery. It was great work by Watt, chasing a lost cause down Saints left that set up the opening goal, he took the ball past the full back before laying it off to Parkes who fired in a cross that ended up with Snedker having to parry the ball away but only to the waiting Joe Howe who rifled the loose ball home.
Saints huffed and puffed but created little with time running out and it looked as though the Tudors had done enough to grab the points, the home fans were hoping that a another goal would ease their fears as late equalisers are part and parcel of this fixture and their worries were confirmed when City scored after the home side were pressing for that elusive second goal. Jordan Parkes found himself in space down the left and drove a cross into the box, it was grabbed by Snedker who wasted no time clearing down field to Sam Merson who did well to get clear of Olly Swain before crossing to Zane Banton who found himself in acres of space with his marker still up field, he controlled the ball before slotting into the corner, much to the relief of the visiting fans.
Both sides then had chances to win the game, with Merson heading wide when well placed before Sanchez Watt repeated his earlier efforts down the left before sending a cross to the back post, where once again, Joe Howe arrived unmarked. It looked game over but the onrushing full back could only drive the ball over the bar with the goal gaping and City survived, the referee calling an end to proceedings seconds later.
In the end a point was probably a fair reflection on the game but Tudor’s fans will feel deflated after the two matches over the Christmas period. The first was certainly one they should have gained points from but in the end they had to settle for just the one over the two fixtures, which after other results sees them drop to 14th place but still only 5 points from a play off spot.
Hemel 1: Laurie Walker 2: Joe Howe 3: Oliver Swain 4: Jordan Parkes © 5 Darren Ward 6: Ismail Yakubu 7:Connor Tomlinson (14: Sanchez Watt) 8:Scott Shulton 9:Steve Cawley 10: Rob Sinclair 11:Kyle Connolly. Subs not used: 12: James Kaloczi 15: Jack Snelus 16:Tom Knowles 17: George Paulin.
Attendance 949 Tudors Man of the Match : Darren Ward.