Hemel Hempstead’s bid to reach the National League South play-offs were dashed as they lost 3-0 to Whitehawk on Saturday afternoon.
The defeat in the winner-takes-all final fixture at Vauxhall Road saw them finish just outside the play-off places with their Sussex visitors making the cut.
It certainly wasn’t due to a lack of effort from the Tudors on the day. But in the end the Hawks proved clinical in front of goal, taking their chances while Hemel didn’t.
Any thoughts of a cagey opening in front of a bumper 1,138 crowd were soon dispelled. Whitehawk, needing just a point to make the end of season play-offs, showed they meant business early on with Chris M’Boungou’s header hitting the top of the bar while Jordan Rose’s downward header was scrambled away.
Hemel edged their way into proceedings and on 12 minutes Jamie Slabber had their first chance when he found himself in space at the back post but put his header over the bar.
Soon after Graeme Montgomery’s trickery on the left forced a corner and from that a powerful header from Michael Richens forced a great save from Whitehawk keeper Craig Ross.
With 20 minutes gone there was huge drama at both ends. In a packed area Slabber’s gentle sidefoot couldn’t make it into the corner of the goal. Whitehawk broke quickly and looked set to score, but the flag was raised for offside.
However disaster struck for the home side on 24 minutes. Hemel looked to have cleared the danger but a great ball back through from Nick Arnold split the defence. There was a slight suspicion of offside but Dave Martin kept his cool to slot past the Jamie Butler.
The Tudors roared straight back and continued to look dangerous on the left hand side. Morgan Ferrier put in a cross to the far post, and as the ball was nodded back into the area Slabber fired goalwards only to see his shot deflected up on to the bar and cleared.
But just as Hemel looked to be on top Whitehawk grabbed a killer second on 41 minutes. A ball was crossed in from the left and Danny Mills thundered home against the underside of the bar from 10 yards out.
There was a late chance for Hemel to pull one back before the interval but Ferrier blazed over from the angle.
The second half opened at a less frenetic pace. It was ten minutes in before the first real attempt on either goal, and Daniel Pappoe’s shot from 30 yards was easily gathered. He was in the action again from the next corner with an opening at the far post but the ball got stuck under his feet and the chance was lost.
It could have been all over on the hour as Martin put the ball across the Tudors’ area and Alex Osborn smashed the ball against the bar. As the drama increased Hemel went close two minutes later, Slabber unable to convert inside the box.
With 68 minutes it was effectively game, and season, over for the Tudors. A quick break saw Whitehawk go two on two with the Hemel defence. Danny Mills passed inside to Dave Martin, it looked like the back line had got back in time but Martin had other ideas, and his well taken shot beat Butler’s despairing dive.
Hemel rang the changes, bringing on James Potton and Reiss Greenidge in a final throw of the dice.
However in all honesty Whitehawk looked the team most likely to score again. Osborn flashed a cross-shot across the face of the Hemel goal. but no-one could get on end of it. The same player then snatched possession and charged forward but his final pass was poor.
The hosts kept going to the end but in truth there was little to report in the final 15 minutes and Whitehawk saw out the game in some comfort.
Hemel Hempstead: 1 Jamie Butler, 2 Ben Herd, 3 Kyle Connelly, 4 Daniel Pappoe, 5 Matt Mitchel-King (Sekajja 50), 6 Adam Bailey Dennis, 7 Rick Welland, 8 Michael Richens (Greenidge 70), 9 Jamie Slabber (Potton 68) 10 Morgan Ferrier, 11 Graeme Montgomery. Subs: 12 James Potton, 14 Ibra Sekajja, 15 Harry Hickford, 16 Matt Spring, 17 Reiss Greenidge.
Whitehawk: 1 Craig Ross, 2 Nick Arnold (Graham 69), 3 Sam Rents, 4 Chris M’Boungou, 5 Jordan Rose, 6 Arnaud Mendy, 7 Alex Osborn, 8 Sergio Torres, 9 Jake Robinson (Frasier 57), 10 Danny Mills (West 76), 11 Dave Martin. Subs: 12 Sam Gargan, 14 David Ijaha, 15 Tom Frasier, 16 Liam Graham, 17 Mike West.