Sports Slip to Hemel Defeat
Two-goal Tudors do just enough as the Sports fire blanks
Snatch-and-grab Hemel Hempstead Town took two of their few chances and then confidently defended their lead against a frustrated Eastbourne Borough side, who worked hard without a cutting edge.
It was a disappointing result – the third defeat in a row, in fact – for Jamie Howell’s men, and there was no disguising the manager’s mood after the match. “We were frustrated and a bit shell-shocked, really, at the end of the game. We created a dozen good scoring chances and didn’t convert any. We lost concentration and let Hemel score early, and in fairness their second was a great goal, just a dream of a strike.
“We did play some good football at times, but football is decided by what you do in each box, and in the two boxes today we weren’t good enough. We are still a work in progress, and especially the younger players are on the learning curve. It may take a little while yet, until all the jigsaw pieces are in the right place. It’s ironic that after all those Tuesday-Saturday weeks in early season, we’ve had a blank midweek, when we needed to get back out there.
“But there’s no crying into the tea-cups. My team is itching to put it right and I am sure we’ll see a reaction on Saturday when we welcome East Thurrock.”
Injuries deprived Jamie of McCallum and Khinda-John, but he called on his bright young pair of full-backs, Hendon and Redwood, both of whom played with pace and enterprise on the flanks. Charman partnered Drage at centre-back – although the Man in the Mask was forced off within the first fifteen minutes with a head injury, replaced by Ian Simpemba.
By that time the Sports were already wounded by another early goal. The visitors had enjoyed a couple of forays, Charman clearing from Charlie Sheringham and Barnet loanee Amaluzor firing across the face of goal. And the Tudors took an eighth-minute lead when Sheringham was played in down the left channel by James Kaloczi from a huge free-kick from the keeper. The striker loves the Lane – having scored six here in the representative game against the Army – and he took one touch and picked his spot in the bottom corner across keeper Bailey Vose.
Borough had already had a couple of half-chances themselves, with Torres seeing a crisp shot deflected for a corner which Hemel defended unconvincingly. Now they came forward with purpose but spurned chances to equalise. Charlie Harris headed a great Harley Willard cross wide after the young winger had surged all the way down the left touchline on a literally unstoppable run.
Then Harley tried an angled shot of his own at the end of another tricky run, but was blocked, Sergio powered a bullet header from Kane Wills’ corner but keeper Walker was behind it. At this stage, the tide was flowing Borough’s way and Hemel had few answers. Tudors skipper Jordan Parkes shook the Eastbourne crossbar from a direct free-kick, dubiously awarded when Scott Shulton crumpled after collision with Lloyd Dawes just outside the Eastbourne box.
On the half-hour Dawes himself beat offside and smartly swivelled to strike, but rifled his shot wide of the left-hand post: it was The Sports’ best chance of an equaliser. In the minutes before half-time, four more decent chances came and went. And then, in the second minute of stoppage time, Hemel struck a deadly blow. From a feebly cleared free-kick, Shulton pounced and struck the sweetest of half-volleys from thirty yards, just inside the left post. You can always spot a really perfect strike on goal, because nobody moves – and nobody did.
0-2 had been no reflection of the flow of play, but it was to prove a comfortable enough cushion for the Tudors in a second half of rather blunt Sports pressure. They defended by any and all means – sometimes expertly, sometimes desperately and once or twice freakily, but Borough could not break them down. There were close calls, none closer than Ian Simpemba’s imperious header, from a Matt Drage free-kick, which cannoned down off the bar and Jamie Taylor’s follow-up was blocked.
Torres – a driving force all afternoon for the Sports – was in angry confrontation with Shulton on 75 minutes, the Hemel midfielder apparently catching Torres on the calf. It may not have been deliberate, and in after-match dialogue with Sergio on the car park – a private conversation in a public place – Shulton insisted his innocence. But it looked at least a reckless action by the combative midfielder, newly signed from Braintree where he has just served a three-match suspension for violent conduct, and the challenge certainly looked no prettier on video.
But by this stage the Tudors were happy to see the game out, playing under a massive banner depicting their overweight and odious Monarch. A good, but utterly irrelevant, question for Borough fans: which of England’s great rulers would you adopt as your patron? King William or King Harold, the victorious and defeated combatants just ten miles away in Battle? A heroic and inspiring Henry V? Or possibly Mad King George? (Anyway, this very question no doubt offends all those Sports diehards who are proper boots-and-braces Republicans….)
But there were no final heroics on this battlefield. Harley and Leon each struck effort well over the bar; Sergio and Lloyd were both blocked or crowded out; and when Jamie Taylor finally netted on 87 minutes, to be ruled offside, Eastbourne’s frustration was complete.