Injury-hit Tudors lose out at Maidstone
Hemel Hempstead Town were beaten on the opening day of the National League South season
It was never going to be an easy first game of the Vanarama National League South season for Hemel Hempstead Town.
And so it proved but Lee Bircham’s injury hit squad did themselves proud in front of nearly 2,000 noisy home fans down in Kent before losing out 4-2.
With no less than eight players missing through injury, the Tudors boss was dealt another blow when new signing Dejon Noel-Williams pulled up in the warm up, so a squad that was already short on numbers was reduced even further with Zac Robinson coming into the side, leaving them with just two fit outfield players on the bench.
Nonethless, Hemel took the game to their full-time hosts and went into the break with a deserved lead.
Nathan Cooper had the games first chance after just five minutes when he rose unmarked to meet a Dobson corner but he could only direct his header into the keepers arms.
There was a shout for hand ball shortly after when the excellent Josh Castiglione saw his cross blocked but the referee waved away the appeals. The resulting corner was met by Cooper but he headed past the post.
Samir Curruthers who was bossing the midfield then tried his luck from range and Tom Hadler, by far the busier goalkeeper had to push it out for another corner.
This was Carruthers’ last involvement as the injury curse struck again, the midfielder stayed on the ground holding his hamstring and after some treatment,
had to be replaced.
It was another cruel blow and it looked to have unsettled Hemel but they still managed to take the lead on the half-hour.
Castiglione found space down the right and crossed for the waiting Robinson who just got in front of his marker to get off the mark on his debut.
It was no more than Hemel deserved and it could have been even better when, just before the half time whistle, James Dobson drove his free kick around the wall only to see it hit the inside of the post and bounce out, with Hadler well beaten.
The second period saw Stones up the tempo and they equalised when Joan Luque cut inside the unfortunate Castiglione an, with time and space, he drove the ball home with only their second attempt on target.
The lead didn’t last long though as the Tudors mounted a quick counter attack and Ky Marsh-Brown drove up to the edge of the box before firing into the bottom corner to restore the lead.
The home side didn’t let up, however, and just minutes later they were pegged back again when a long ball was met by Luque, who looked offside but raced clear to tuck the ball past Nick Hayes for a second time.
JJ Lacey almost put the visitors back in front when he arrived at the far post to meet a cross but Hadler somehow blocked his effort from close range.
Almost inevitably Maidstone took the lead shortly after and it was the cruelest blow when Regan Booty’s speculative shot took a huge deflection tio leave Hayes stranded.
Hemel tried to find a way back with substitute Alfie Cerulli seeing his shot tipped round for a corner by Hadler.
Hemel caused a few panics from the set-piece with Lacey and Robinson having shots blocked bit, with everyone pushing up, Stones broke away from the resulting melee and Christie Pattisson raced clear before beating Hayes to complete the scoring.