Hemel Town slipped to a disappointing home loss 1-0 against strugglers Poole Town on Saturday – a complete contrast to their excellent two results against top-seven sides in recent games.
A 30th minute goal by Marvin Brooks was enough to give Poole a shock but deserved victory at a wet and windy Vauxhall Road.
It was an opposite-ends-of-the-table clash with Hemel in third place going into the match while Poole sat third from bottom in the National League South standings. But as the cliché always tells, there are no easy games in this tough division.
All said, it was a frustrating afternoon for the Tudors’ faithful who saw their side struggle to create any real opportunities against The Dolphins’ well-organised backline.
Hemel’s dreadful injury list certainly didn’t help and it finally took its toll with only 11 barely-fit players able to strap up their boots, including two Hemel Academy lads on the bench.
Tudors’ boss Dean Brennan will be grateful for the upcoming two-week break to get some of his walking wounded fit for the next game away at 17th-placed Oxford City.
To add to the injury woes, two Tudors’ players only lasted 25 minutes on Saturday with Matt Spring and Will Hoskins both having to be replaced. Poole soon took full advantage, creating several goalscoring opportunities and should have been in front already before they finally broke the deadlock on the half-hour when Brooks headed home after his first effort had been blocked by debutant keeper Dillion Barnes.
And if Poole’s Warren Bentley hadn’t headed over from six yards right before half-time, the visitors would have had an even more comfortable cushion going into the break.
The second period saw the hosts push forward with the wind behind them, but they only mustered two shots on target and were further hit by injury concerns when James Kaloczi – who has been excellent of late – had to go off with a foot ailment.
His replacement Tyler Campbell caused a few problems down the right flank, managing to get away from his marker before putting in good crosses but Hemel’s frontline were not aggressive enough to get on the end of them, allowing Poole to clear their lines.
Campbell also brought a decent save out of the Poole keeper, who up to that point had been barely tested.
The visitors could have added to their tally when substitute Ollie Balder broke clear with ten minutes left but Barnes just got a hand to his shot and it went narrowly wide.
In the end Poole held on for a comfortable victory as Hemel ran out of ideas, much to the disappointment of another 500-plus crowd at Vauxhall Road.
Hopefully the long break will help the injury cause and the likes of keeper Laurie Walker, who missed this game due to a nasty gash on his arm, Lloyd Doyley, Alex Osborn, Matt Saunders, Hoskins, Spring, Tom Hamblin and Kaloczi might be available for selection against another team who are desperate for points at the lower end of the table.
The two-week respite is a result of February 3rd’s intended opponents East Thurrock being involved in third-round FA Trophy action instead.
Despite the loss, Hemel still remain in third place in the league table although five of the teams around them in the top-eight now have games in hand over the Tudors.
The aforementioned Oxford City fixture is on Saturday, February 10, at Marsh Lane (3pm kick-off).
Hemel: Dillon Barnes, Matt Spring (Antonio German), Joe Howe, Jordan Parkes (captain), Kyle Connolly, Ismail Yakubu, Ebby Nelson-Addy, Scotty Shulton, Will Hoskins (David Moyo), James Kaloczi (Tyler Campbell), Spencer McCall. Subs not used: Zac Jose and George Paulin.
Mitch’s man of the match: Spencer McCall.