Hemel Town were left ruing a controversial refereeing decision as they were knocked out of the FA Cup by Sutton United in Monday night’s third qualifying round replay.
Hemel were adamant that they should have had a penalty in the first half when Jamal Lowe appeared to have been brought down by the last defender when through on goal – but instead of awarding a spot kick and dismissing the Sutton defender, the referee decided to book Lowe for diving.
Hemel were furious with the decision, but Sutton made the most of their reprieve as they went on to win the game with goals from Ross Stearn and Dan Wishart, before Ben Herd bagged a stoppage time consolation for the Tudors.
The big team news for Hemel was the decision to drop Oliver Hawkins and Matty Harriott to the bench, with manager Dean Brennan instead opting for the experienced duo of Dennis Oli and Matty Spring.
The decision nearly paid dividends in the first five minutes as Spring picked up the ball on the edge of the area and forced a fine save from Sutton keeper Ross Worner, who did excellently to tip his curling effort round the post.
Kyle Connolly was next to try his luck for the Tudors but his fizzing 25-yard drive flew just wide of the upright with Worner well beaten, before Oli flicked a cross from Ben Herd over the bar after good work from Willy Gnahore.
The defining moment came towards the end of the first half as Lowe broke clear of the Sutton defence. He went down under a challenge from Kevin Amankwaah, with Hemel screaming for a penalty, but the referee thought otherwise and warded a free-kick to the hosts.
Hemel manager Brennan was clearly incensed by the decision, and his continued protestations led to a him being sent to the stands.
Things went from bad to worse for the Tudors as they were hit by a sucker punch with the least kick of the half as Sutton took the lead with their first real attempt on goal. Craig Dundas broke through and forced Jamie Butler into a fine save, but Stearn was on hand to tuck away the rebound to the delight of the home faithful.
Sutton started the second half well, and Butler was quick off his line twice in quick succession to make vital blocks from Dundas and Stearn.
Hemel were struggling to create chances in the first 15 minutes of the second half, and they reacted by introducing centre-forward Hawkins from the bench in place of Jack Smith.
But it was Sutton who came close to doubling their lead in spectacular style after 68 minutes as Amankwaah raced down the left before cutting inside and firing a vicious curling effort against the underside of the crossbar.
Sutton manager Paul Doswell was sent off late on for remonstrating with the linesman, but it did not stop his side from wrapping up the win in the 86th minute as Wishart cut in from the left and slotted the ball low past Butler for 2-0.
There was still time for Hemel to pull a goal back through a curling free-kick from Herd, but it was too little too late for the Tudors.
Sutton United: 1 Ross Worner, 2 Kevin Amankwaah, 3 Dan Spence, 4 Dean Beckwith, 5 Shaun Cooper (15 Dan Fitchett, 73), 6 Jamie Collins (c), 7 Tom Bolarinwa, 8 Craig Eastmond, 9 Craig Dundas, 10 Craig McAllister, 11 Ross Stearn (16 Dan Wishart, 76). Subs not used: 12 Stuart Fleetwood, 14 Simon Downer, 16 Dan Wishart, 17 Louis John, 18 Tommy Wright, 19 Wayne Shaw.
Hemel Hempstead Town: 1 Jamie Butler, 2 Ben Herd, 3 Kyle Connolly, 4 Ed Oshodi, 5 Josh Hill, 6 Matt Spring (16 Michael Richens, 83), 7 James Potton (c), 8 Jack Smith (12 Oliver Hawkins, 61), 9 Dennis Oli, 10 Wilfried Gnahore (15 Matty Harriott, 70), 11 Jamal Lowe. Subs not used: 14 Terrell Forbes, 17 Xavier Comas Leon, 18 Michael Ogboro.