Hemel Hempstead Town's derby-day joy as they seal fine win at St Albans
Read Allan Mitchell's report as the Tudors kicked off 2022 in superb fashion as they maintained their excellent away form under Mark Jones
The Tudor Army were out in force and full voice as Hemel Hempstead Town defeated local rivals St Albans City in a keenly-fought local derby in front of an incredible 2,759 fans at Clarence Park, writes Allan Mitchell.
And the Tudors were worthy victors as they controlled the play for long periods with Mark Jones’ side really playing as a real unit now.
The Saints came into the game as promotion candidates and clear favourites but Hemel are a formidable side on their travels and are still unbeaten under Jones’ management away from home.
They took the lead after just six minutes when a Sam Mantom corner was headed home by Cole Kpekawa, the ball just squeezing past a defender and the keeper on the line.
They almost repeated the set piece a couple of minutes later but this time Johnson saved Kpekawa’s header.
The Saints had a very decent chance themselves shortly after this as the game opened up, a great run by ex-Tudor Zane Banton saw him drive down the line before fizzing the ball across the six-yard box, it was met by Bayley Brown who shot first time but it was superbly saved by Craig King and as it looped up, Kpekawa was able to knock it over the bar for a corner.
Several players found it hard to keep their feet in the slippery conditions but it was Hemel who were looking the more likely to add to their tally as they frequently broke up the home side's attacks and responded with excellent counters of their own.
They got the second goal their efforts deserved when Gus Scott-Morriss picked up a loose ball on the right, he fired it into new boy Charlee Hughes who brilliantly volleyed the ball past Johnson to send the Tudors fans into raptures behind the goal.
City responded before half-time, however. The ball was crossed in, causing a bit of a scramble and it looked as though a City player had run the ball over the line but the officials ignored the appeals and it fell to Shaun Jeffers who curled the ball into the back of the net from the angle.
But Hemel picked up where they left off after the break and Hughes pounced on a loose ball to prod it goalwards but once again the linesman didn’t flag to say it had crossed the line and it was cleared.
Hughes was out of luck again when his header from a Kpekawa cross crashed against the crossbar before bouncing down onto the line and away.
But they finally added to their tally on 66 minutes.
Alfie Cerulli, who had worked his socks off all game, raced down the left and had a chance to shoot himself but he unselfishly laid it back to Stevenage loanee Alfie Williams who turned superbly before drilling the ball past Johnson into the far corner of the net.
City pressed as the game drew to a conclusion and there were some incredible blocks and tackles coming in from the visitors as they defended superbly.
Hemel could have added a fourth in injury-time as Cerulli was able to turn his marker on the halfway line and he drove into the box and it was only a superb last ditch tackle that stopped him making it four.
Next up is high flying and big spending Ebbsfleet United at Vauxhall Road on Saturday where Jones will be hoping for more of the same and that elusive home win.
Hemel: Craig King, Gus Scott-Morriss, Aaron Simpson, (Dan Wishart) Dominic Morgan-Griffiths, Jack Westbrook, Cole Kpekawa, Alfie Williams, Sam Manton, (Joash Nembhard), Alfie Cerulli, Charlee Hughes, (Alex Addai), Josh Castiglione. Subs not used: Chris Paul, Nick Hayes.
Tudors man-of-the-match: Dominic Morgan-Griffiths.