Hemel Hempstead Town boss Sammy Moore was pleased with his side’s reaction to last week’s derby defeat to Wealdstone by bouncing back to claim a tough-nosed 2-1 away victory at a scorching-hot Oxford City on Saturday.
It was just the fifth time in the past 19 meetings between the two sides where the away team emerged victorious and Moore was delighted with his team’s desire in a tough place to play on City’s 3G artificial pitch.
And it was also a morale-boosting fourth triumph out of six games this season for the Tudors ahead of the emotional return of former captain Jordan Parkes to Vauxhall Road this Bank Holiday Monday.
Watford loaneee Daniel Phillips put in a man of the match display on his debut for the Tudors and bagged a spectacular goal for his efforts.
The 18-year-old, who is on loan from the Premier League outfit until January, scored a fifth-minute screamer from 25 yards to give the visitors a 1-0 lead and his overall performance earned him National League South team of the week honours.
The midfielder, whose loan signing was announced on Thursday, joined Watford in 2015 as an under-14s player and was their under-23s academy player of the season last term.
In midweek, the impressive youngster said his motivation for wanting to play for the Tudors was to “push on and challenge himself at a higher level”.
He did that and more on Saturday.
The early goal at Marsh Lane was cancelled out seven minutes after the break when Kyran Wiltshire curled in a sublime 25-yard free-kick into the top corner.
But the Tudors were not willing to settle for a draw and battled on in a game interspersed with drinks breaks due to the soaring temperatures.
The 69th minute substitute Ricardo German, returning to the side after a four-game absence through injury, secured the winner in the 82nd minute for his second goal in as many games this season.
He was able to get a one-on-one with Oxford keeper Craig King and slotted home from a tight angle, much to the delight of the travelling Tudor Army contingent.
“Nothing beats that match-day feeling. Back from injury. Buzzing to score another goal. Two [goals] in two,” the 20-year-old striker said on his Twitter account after the game.
Boss Moore was pleased with his squad’s ability to bounce back after the tough 3-0 reverse last Saturday at home to local rivals Wealdstone.
He felt the club had a positive week leading up to the match and hoped for a bounce back result. He certainly got it.
“[Teams] learn more in defeat. Never get too high, never get too low,” he said on Tuesday night.
And the gaffer said after Saturday’s victory: “Get in. Asked for a reaction and we certainly got that.
“Brilliant three points at a tough place to go, especially in this heat.
“Not one of our best performances, but we showed great desire today. Subs made a difference when they came on. Brilliant away support as well.”
Speaking of the away support, the Tudors’ fans sang a moving chant of support during the game for beleaguered League One side Bury FC, who are facing a financial battle to survive as a club.
Bury hold a special place in the Hemel supporters’ hearts after they visited Gigg Lane in 2014 for an FA Cup first-round clash in what was one of the biggest games in Tudors’ history.
The win leaves the Tudors in fifth place in the early National League South standings after six games.
It’s now a quick turnaround for Moore’s squad as they get ready to return home to face Billericay Town on Bank Holiday Monday at Vauxhall Road.
The Blues have won four, drawn one and lost one so far this term and sit in third place in the table.
It could be an emotionally-charged affair as it will see former club skipper, talisman and record goal scorer Jordan Parkes returning to play against Hemel for the first time since his surprise departure from the club in the off-season.
Billericay also boast in their ranks former Hemel striker Jake Robinson, who netted 24 times in just 30 appearances for the Tudors in the 2016/17 season before being transferred to Billercay in March 2017 for a club-record fee of £24,000.
In the 2017/18 season Robinson went on to break Billericay’s season goal scoring record when he netted 57 times in all competitions.
He scored twice on Saturday in Billericay’s 3-2 win over Hemel’s local rivals St Albans City, with his second of the day arriving in the 86th minute.
Last season’s league meetings between the two teams were the first for 26 years, with Billericay doing the double over Hemel after beating them 2-0 at Vauxhall Road and winning 2-1 at home.
The following Saturday, August 31, then sees Hemel travel to Dartford.
Hemel’s line-up v Oxford City: Sam Beasant, Munashie Sundire, Craig Braham-Barrett, Daniel Phillips, Connor Essam (captain), Tyrone Sterling, Liam Nash (Isaac Galliford, 57 mins), Jake Howells (Jacques Kpohomouh, 60 mins), Sam Ashford (Ricardo German, 69 mins), Jack Midson, Mo Bettamer. Subs not used: Sydney Ibie, Danny Boness.