The torrent of recent goals for Hemel Town dried up today in the second qualifying round of the FA Cup as they drew 0-0 in a humdrum game against lower-league Wingate and Finchley at Vauxhall Road (Saturday).
Most Tudors supporters could well have predicted this result as they have had trouble with lower-tier opposition in the last few seasons.
To be fair to Hemel manager Dean Brennan, they are still struggling to field a full-strength side due to the recent rash of injuries and Isthmian Premier Division outfit Wingate and Finchley played to their strengths on a frustrating day in difficult conditions.
Indeed, for the second game running the Tudors only dressed five players for the bench, as opposed to the full complement of six that Wingate filled.
The visitors, managed by Brennan’s former Luton Town teammate Keith Rowland, could have nicked the game when an 81st minute free-kick from ex-Tudor Ben Pattie drifted just wide of the post, much to the relief of every Hemel fan, who thought it was inevitable that Pattie would snatch the winner against his former side.
The first real chance of the contest came on 20 minutes when Hemel’s Taylor Miles miscued his shot and the ball landed kindly for Rowan Liburd, but the forward’s first-time shot was well blocked by Wingate keeper Shane Gore.
As the half progressed, the visitors’ confidence grew and Pattie fired in a free-kick that looked as though it was meant as a cross but it curled towards the goal and Hemel netminder Laurie Walker did well to tip it over.
Wingate had another chance when Pattie sent Reece Beckles-Richard clear, but the latter’s shot was again well-saved by Walker.
Walker has been simply superb in goal all season for the Tudors.
Alex Osborn managed to trouble Gore just before the break, but his effort was pushed away and the sides went in level at the break.
The game didn’t really improve in the second half and the nearest either side came to breaking the deadlock came from free-kicks, Gore saving superbly from Hemel skipper Jordan Parkes and Pattie’s late effort going wide.
What a contrast it was to last week’s seven-goal thriller against Braintree.
Following this drab draw, the teams will do it all to again in a cup replay at The Harry Abrahams Stadium on Tuesday evening.
An extra match in an already brutal stretch-run of games is probably the last thing Brennan wanted for his injury-riddled squad.
Following that, it will be back to league action next Saturday, September 23, when Hemel travel to 16th-placed Chippenham Town, who were knocked out of the FA Cup today at Southern League Premier Division side Weymouth.
Hemel: Laurie Walker, Joe Howe, Kyle Connolly, Jordan Parkes (captain), Phil Walsh, Callum Driver, Alex Osborn (James Kaloczi, 72), Taylor Miles (Matt Spring, 72), Rowan Liburd, Charlie Sheringham, Ben Greenhalgh (Sam Hatton, 87). Subs not used: Charlie Hayford, Danny Boness.
Wingate and Finchley: Shane Gore, Ola Williams, Nathan Mavilla, Joe Kizzi, Sean Cronin, Ahmet Rifat (captain), Luke Alfano, Spencer McCall, Ben Pattie, Reece Beckles-Richard, Ron Laney. Subs: Afolabi Obafemi, Kweku Lucan, Joe Sharpe, De’Freece Vanderhyde, Antoine Akinola, Issac Ebelebe.
Man of the match: Joe Kizzi.
Referee: Wayne Cartmel.