Mark Jones’ return to former club Oxford City ended in defeat as Hemel Hempstead Town were beaten 2-0 in the Vanarama National League South last weekend, writes Allan Mitchell.
It was always going to be a tough fixture for the Tudors, facing an Oxford line-up who have performed consistently over the last few years and have a settled side that are very much in the promotion mix.
The reverse fixture at Vauxhall Road saw City romp home 4-0 but Hemel have improved since then and they gave a decent account of themselves but just weren’t able to find that final pass or finish despite long periods of possession.
In the first half, the Tudors made a lively start and had the first real chance when Alfie Williams got onto the end of a good move that involved Samir Curruthers, Cole Kpekawa and Josh Castiglione down the left but he miscued his shot from inside the box and it flew well wide.
Neither side created much after this although City stepped up in terms of possession with Hemel very much on the back foot.
They took the lead after Joe Iaciofano had brought a decent save out of Craig King, the ball looped up into the air and Josh Castiglione won the header but it looped back into the box and fell kindly to Nana Owusu who had time to pick his spot.
He didn’t really get a good strike on the ball, however, and King looked to have it covered but it squirmed through his hands and into the net.
It was a disappointing way to concede but the Tudors responded well with Castiglione and Curruthers seeing efforts fly wide before they probably had the best chance of the game right on half-time.
Craig Fasanmade did well on the edge of the box, skipping past a couple of challenges before putting Castiglione into space just inside the area. The in-form winger tried to curl the ball into the corner but he mis-hit the strike and it skidded wide.
The second half was something of a dour affair with City content to defend and attack on the counter. Hemel huffed and puffed but didn’t really threaten Ben Dudzinski in the Oxford goal.
There was a shout for a potential penalty when Fasanmade looked to have been blocked inside the box but the game was settled in the last minute when the Tudors failed to deal with a cross from the right and sub Harvey Bradbury arrived unmarked to head home, much to the relief of the home fans.
Manager Jones said after the game that his side just lacked that little bit of quality on the day and City just about deserved to win the game, although there was no shortage of effort from his side.
Hemel: Craig King, Gus Scott-Morriss, Joash Nembhard, Dominic Morgan-Griffiths, Jack Westbrook, Cole Kpekawa, Samir Curruthers (Alfie Cerulli 70), Alfie Williams (Jacob Gardiner-Smith 75), Craig Fasanmade, Charlee Williams (Alex Addai 80), Josh Castiglione. Subs not used: Dan Wishart, David Saubnders.
Tudors man-of-the-match: Dom Morgan-Griffiths.