Hemel face FA Cup replay after Ware's late fightback
Hemel Hempstead Town squandered a 2-0 lead as their lower-ranked opponents battled back in the second qualifying round
There are lots of clichés applied in football and a number could be applied for Hemel Hempstead Town at the weekend as ‘the magic of the FA Cup’ was very much in evidence in a ‘game of two halves’ at Ware FC’s Woodson Park Stadium, writes Allan Mitchell.
In the end, the second qualifying round clash ended in a 2-2 draw, which meant the two teams will face off again in a replay at Vauxhall Road tomorrow (Tuesday) night.
Ware came into the game sitting in third place in their division (two levels below their visitors) whilst Hemel were sitting without a win and bottom of the National League South so it was very much a ‘potential banana skin’ for the Tudors.
It was a very strong Hemel side that took the field with manager Lee Bircham welcoming back Chris Paul to the fray in midfield and giving a debut to ex Wolves and Kilmarnock player Aaron Simpson at left back. Also starting was Freddie Hinds to give them a much needed boost up front.
The Tudors started superbly and threatened to take Ware apart in the first 20 minutes.
Some confident and slick passing, orchestrated by the experienced midfield of Sam Mantom, Samir Curruthers and Paul saw them take a 2-0 lead before there were 10 minutes on the clock.
A superb cross field pass from Mantom found an advancing Gus Scott-Morriss on the right, he controlled the pass and slipped inside the full-back before planting the ball into the bottom corner to give Hemel the best possible start.
Another slick passing move cut Ware’s defence apart on nine minutes when James Dobson raced clear down the left and picked out the lively Hinds who tucked the ball into the opposite corner to put the Tudors in control.
Hinds was causing Ware lots of problems but it was a strong challenge that led to him having to leave the field after suffering a dead leg after just 18 minutes.
Youngster Jack Devine came on to replace him and he was well shackled by the ‘Rose’ brothers so it was a case of problem solved for the Ware pairing.
Despite this setback, Hemel continued to dominate the first period and the home side had to thank their goalkeeper Brad Robinson for keeping them in the game with some great blocking with his legs, one in particular saw him stop a goal bound effort from Cole Kpekawa that would surely have been game over just before the break.
Ware came out in the second half looking to try and impose themselves on Hemel with a more physical approach but they didn’t threaten too much up front and it looked as though it was simply a case of seeing the game out for the Tudors.
Indeed Hemel looked the more likely to add to their tally but Robinson continued to defy the visitors, saving from George Devine and Stephen Gleeson.
Hemel had to replace Paul and Simpson as the clock ticked down and a reshuffle at the back gave Ware the opportunity they needed.
A sloppily conceded corner was sent to the back post where an unmarked Louis Rose had time to loop his header over Laurence Bilboe and into the far corner to reduce the deficit with 20 minutes left.
Hemel had a chance to silence the home crowd when another clinical tackle gave Curruthers a chance with a free-kick on the edge of the box. He curled it superbly over the wall only to see Robinson get a fingertip to it, pushing it onto the post to keep the game alive.
There was a huge shout for a penalty with the clock ticking down when Curruthers was clearly tripped as he cut into the box but the referee waved away Hemel’s appeals.
Then, in the final minute, Ware forced their way down the left and sub Liam Dulson was given too much room at the back post and he planted his header past Bilboe to level the tie, to huge scenes of joy from the Ware players and supporters.
After completely controlling the game for long periods, especially in the first period, Hemel will be hugely disappointed not to have seen the game out but credit has to go to Ware for their spirited second half display which earned them the replay.
Hemel: Laurence Bilboe, Gus Scott-Morriss, Aaron Simpson (Nathan Cooper) Chris Paul (Stephen Gleeson) Cole Kpekawa, James Kaloczi, Samir Carruthers, Sam Mantom, Freddie Hinds (George Devine) Jonathan Lacey, James Dobson. Subs not used: Morgan-Griffiths, Castiglione, Hayes, Cerulli.
Tudors Man of the Match: Sam Mantom.