Hemel let another lead slip as FA Trophy tie ends in a draw

Hemel Town's Antonio German.
Hemel Town's Antonio German.

It was a third draw in a row for Hemel Town on Saturday against fellow National League South outfit Bognor Regis Town in the 3rd qualifying round of the FA Trophy.

The 1-1 draw means Dean Brennan’s men now face a difficult road trip down to the south coast for the replay this Tuesday night.

It all started so well for the Tudors when new man Antonio German opened the scoring after just five minutes with another superb goal, firing home from the edge of the area after some good build-up play down the right.

The forward has made an impressive start since signing for the Tudors a fortnight ago, scoring in his first two games and looks to be a good addition to the squad.

Hemel should have been 2-0 up shortly after when skipper Jordan Parkes smashed a long-range effort against the bar and with Bognor keeper Dan Lincoln stranded, Will Hoskins reacted first to the loose ball and tucked it into the empty net, only to see the assistant’s flag raised.

While German has made a positive start, Hoskins must have wondered what he has done to upset linesman, as for the second game running it looked a very harsh decision, with the striker following Parkes shot in from behind Bognor’s static back four, looking very much onside.

Though it wasn’t a repeat of the last home game when Hemel piled forward and were leaving the visitors praying for the half-time whistle, they clearly had the edge here but just couldn’t quite find the final pass or finish to put the game to bed.

Parkes had another decent chance just on the half-hour mark when German crossed from the right and the Tudors captain met it with his head but only managed to glance it wide of the post.

There were a few other efforts from distance that were sent into the crowd and as the break approached Bognor sensed they might be able to get back into the game, forcing a couple of late corners that came to nothing but there was a sense of needing that crucial second goal among Tudors supporters.

The second period saw Hemel looking a bit flat and lacking in ideas but Bognor, however, started to gain in confidence with the lively Ibra Sekajja finding himself in more and more space.

On 55 minutes Sekajja broke clear after a mistake at the back and raced through on goal but Hemel netminder Laurie Walker closed him down and saved well, one-handed.

From the resulting corner The Rocks skipper Sami El-Abd rose unmarked at the near post but headed straight at Walker.

Hemel made a couple of substitutions to try to lift themselves but it was Bognor who continued to press forward and they got back on level terms after another corner wasn’t dealt with. Walker saved a close-range effort but could only palm into the path of Sekajja, who fired home from only a couple of yards out.

Hemel were getting increasingly frustrated as they were pushed back and Callum Driver was booked for a late challenge on the left side of the area. The resulting free-kick was met by Chad Field but he headed wide with the goal gaping.

Kyle Connolly then found himself in the book on 75 minutes when the impressive Ben Swallow took the ball past him before getting floored by the Tudors defender. The free-kick was lifted over the wall but went straight into Walker’s arms.

As time counted down, it was all Bognor with Swallow constantly a threat, cutting in from the right onto his left foot on more than one occasion, each time getting shots away that drifted narrowly wide.

Sekajja hit the bar with a looping header, then headed straight at Walker when unmarked from six yards out.

Tommy Block and Swallow then had late chances but it just wasn’t their day and Hemel managed to hold on for the midweek replay.

In the end, the Tudors will likely be grateful for a second bite at the cherry as they were left hanging on at the end but over the course of the 90 minutes a draw was probably a fair result.

It’s all down to Bognor on Tuesday night and with the National League “big boys” in the hat for the draw tomorrow (Monday) it’s gratifying to still be in the competition with the possibility of facing a Leyton Orient or Tranmere,

Hemel boss Brennan will certainly be keen to get a result.

Meanwhile in the league, where the Tudors are very much in the thick of the playoff race, they will next travel to 12th-ranked Bath City this Saturday. The last time the two sides met was in the FA Cup qualifying rounds on September 30 where Bath triumphed 3-0.

Tudors v Bognor: Laurie Walker, Joe Howe, Kyle Connolly, Jordan Parkes (62, Matt Spring), Lloyd Doyley, Callum Driver, James Kaloczi (78, Alex Osborn), Scotty Shulton, Will Hoskins (64, David Moyo), Antonio German, Spencer McCall.

Subs not used: Tom Day and Ebby Nelson-Abby.

Mitch’s man of the Match: Laurie Walker.

Attendance: 301.