Hemel Hempstead Town made it three wins out of four to start the new National League South season and ended Dulwich Hamlet’s 100 per cent winning record after Tuesday night’s 1-0 victory at Vauxhall Road.
The Tudors continued their promising form under new boss Sammy Moore and deservedly beat a strong Dulwich side.
What made the result all the more impressive was that Moore had to field another weakened side after losing Luke Howell to a three-match suspension and is still without several players who remain on the injury list.
The club had signed exciting Berkhamsted FC prospect Jonathan Lacey on a duel registration earlier in the week and he was on the bench for the game as Moore found himself down to the bare bones for his team selection.
The players who came into the side certainly didn’t let anyone down and produced a performance on the night that was well worthy of maximum points, restricting Dulwich to a handful of chances by working hard, keeping their discipline and battling for every ball.
The lively Liam Nash caused the visitors problems from the start and after some half-chances he set up Sam Ashford when threading a superb ball through the middle. Ashford latched onto it and, much like Saturday, calmly tucked the ball past keeper Ashley Maynard-Brewer to give the Tudors a deserved lead on 15 minutes.
As the first-half wore on, Dulwich started to get a foothold in the game and could have equalised on the half-hour when a corner was swung into a crowd of players. Hemel keeper Sam Beasant couldn’t get to the ball and it dropped at the feet of Christian Smith, but fortunately rebounded off his toes and rolled past the post.
The second period saw Ashford have two further chances in as many minutes, the first with a header and the second with a decent shot, both of which went wide as the hosts started the half on the front foot.
Dulwich did have the ball in the back of the net on 50 minutes but it was ruled out for offside.
To add to Hemel’s injury woes, shortly afterwards the superb Nash had to limp off, still suffering from a knee to his lower back in the first-half. He had clearly been struggling with the knock and was replaced by debutant Lacey, who didn’t look out of place in the lone striker role.
The former Leverstock Green man worked hard at chasing down the Dulwich back-four every time they tried to play their way out and also had a chance to extend Hemel’s lead after good work by Isaac Galliford. Lacey took a touch but his shot from the edge of the box went straight at Maynard-Brewer, who saved well.
With Hemel chasing down and working hard, Dulwich became increasingly frustrated and never really troubled Beasant, who after the game was delighted to record his first clean sheet for his new club.
Indeed, the excellent Lacey almost made it 2-0 when he drove in a shot from just inside the box that Maynard-Brewer barely managed to get a hand to, the ball looping up but falling too far in front of the Tudors’ forwards before being cleared.
After four long minutes of injury time, Hemel saw the game out for an excellent victory as they left the field to a standing ovation from the crowd.
The win leaves Hemel in fifth place in the very early National League South table.
Moore will now be scratching his head due to the amount of injuries and will be hoping that Nash’s back has recovered, along with other walking wounded getting fit in time for the arrival of former Hemel boss Dean Brennan’s Wealdstone side this Saturday.
The Tudors’ derby rivals won 1-0 at home against Chippenham Town last night and have the same league record as Hemel, three wins and one loss, but with a superior goal difference that finds them in second place in the fledgling standings.
Howell will remain suspended, as will recent signing Josh Wallen following his red card in the Hampton & Richmond game, which gives Moore an even bigger selection headache.
After the game, Moore said on Twitter: “What a win that was tonight. Proper team performance.
“The squad is getting tested but the boys that came in tonight were different class.
“Rest up and we go again this Saturday.
“You fans were unbelievable tonight, your support was amazing.”
Nash added on his Twitter account: “Happy to get another assist...but how about the performance from the boys!
“Different class all over the pitch.
“Gutted to come off injured, just hoping it’s not too bad.”
Hemel’s line-up v Dulwich Hamlet: Sam Beasant, Jacques Kpohomouh, Craig Braham-Barrett, Munashe Sundire (Sydney Ibie), Connor Essam (captain), Tyrone Sterling, Liam Nash (Jonathan Lacey), Jake Howells, Sam Ashford, Jack Midson, Isaac Galliford. Subs not used: Alvin Mugagada, Josh Wallen, Danny Boness.
Man of the match: Connor Essam.