Hemel Town booked their place in the last-16 of the FA Trophy for the first time in the club’s history with a hard fought 3-1 victory over Concord Rangers on a difficult surface at Vauxhall Road.
Both sides deserve credit for contributing to an entertaining game, but it was the Tudors who finally came out on top – avenging an earlier home league defeat at the hands of their fellow Vanarama Conference South rivals.
It was Concord who almost scored first when James White superbly volleyed a poor clearance towards Laurie Walker’s goal, with the Hemel keeper rising to the challenge by pushing the ball away for a corner.
From this point on, it was the home side who gained the ascendancy, with David king finding an unmarked Jorell Johnson in the box, but he couldn’t keep his header down and it sailed over the bar.
James Potton then tested Josh Vickers in the Concord goal, forcing a good save out of the keeper, before Jack Lampe got a touch on a Jordan Parkes free-kick; just taking it off the head of Oliver Hawkins and deflecting it out for a corner.
Potton then missed another chance, when he failed to keep his shot down when well placed.
The breakthrough came in the 27th minute when King crossed from the right and found Hawkins who headed across the face of the goal. Dennis Oli was first to the ball and he bundled it through a crowd of players to give Hemel a deserved lead.
As the half drew to a close, Hawkins and Parkes both had opportunities to extend the Tudors’ lead, but both times they put the ball over the bar and they had to settle for a solitary goal lead at the break.
At the start of the second half, King made another good run down the right for Hemel and his cross was met by Oli on the stretch; his shot almost looped over Vickers but he just managed to tip it over the bar.
Hemel continued to make and miss chances, with Oli, Mo Shariff and Parkes all failing to find the target, and then the inevitable happened with Concord equalising after 64 minutes.
A good run down the right saw the ball fired across the goal and, with Walker failing to get a hand on it, the excellent Lewis Taafe was left with an easy tap-in.
The Beach Boys’ joy was short lived, however, when straight from the kick-off, Oli broke down the right and crossed to the far post, where a Hawkins rose and headed home to restore the Tudors’ lead.
As Concord pushed forward, Hemel looked dangerous on the break and Matty Saunders saw Vickers save twice, parrying the first shot and doing the same with the follow up.
On 85 minutes, Potton broke clear and drew a defender before laying the ball to an unmarked Hawkins who fired home to make the game safe.
Hemel manager Dean Brennan was delighted with his team’s efforts, saying that he “was proud of his players and proud of the club as they continue to improve with every game.”
Concord manager Danny Cowley agreed that “the better side won but he was pleased with his team’s efforts on a difficult pitch.”
Hemel Hempstead Town: Walker 7, King 7, Lee 7, Parkes © 7, Asafu-Adjaye 8, Johnson 7, Saunders 7, Oli 8, Hawkins 8, Shariff 7, Potton 8. Subs Diarra 6, Talbot 6, Banton 6. Subs not used: Connolly, Reynolds.
Concord Rangers: Vickers 8, Walker 7, Glozier 7, Woodyard 7, Lampe 7, Fry © 7, Ogilvie 7, White 8, Taafe 8, Collins 7 Cawley 7, Subs Miles 6, Pinnock 6, Stokes 6, Subs not used: Kouvassi, King.
Referee: Anthony Coggins. Assistants: Lee Forrester, Neil Morrison. 4th Official: Nick Mackenzie.
Crowd: 529. Man of the Match: Oliver Hawkins (Hemel)