Playoff-chasing Tudors gear up for another '˜cup final' as Oxford City come to town
Hemel Hempstead Town boss Dean Brennan is preparing his side for another '˜must-win' game as the Tudors gear up for a crunch clash with Oxford City on Saturday.
Following Hemel’s 2-2 draw with St Albans City on Tuesday night, Brennan’s side know that their fate is in their own hands as they look to secure a place in the National League South playoffs.
The Tudors currently occupy fifth spot in the table, one point clear of nearest challengers Maidenhead United and Dartford, with just three games left to play.
A victory for Hemel at Vauxhall Road on Saturday would put them firmly in the driving seat for a top-five finish, and would end eighth-placed Oxford’s faint hopes of making a late charge for the playoffs.
Oxford have been in poor form of late, losing four of their last five league fixtures, but Brennan insists his side will not be taking anything for granted.
“You can drop your guard and look at their form guide and all that stuff but if you actually look at them over the whole season, they have beaten Ebbsfleet, they beat Concord 5-1, they beat Wealdstone, and as we say every week, if you’re not on your game, you don’t win matches in this division,” he said.
“They are a very good technical side who like to pass the ball, and it is going to be a really, really tough test. It’s a cup final, it’s that simple – they must win and we must win.
“It’s one that we are really looking forward to because there should be a fantastic atmosphere and they have got couple of players who played for us previously so it will be nice to see them. Hopefully we will be on the right end of the result.
“I know that they’ve got a few injuries and things like that themselves, but we have been to places with 13 players and won. Teams probably looked at us and thought that we were depleted, but as I say, you can’t afford to drop your guard.
“We are very cautious of what they have got – they’ve got some fantastic technical players and a fantastic goalkeeper in Laurie Walker so we are under no illusions that it will be a tough test.”
Hemel have produced some dramatic late fightbacks in recent weeks, but Brennan wants his side to be at their best for the full 90 minutes on Saturday.
“We’ve got to start on the front foot and take the last half an hour or 45 minutes from the last three games, and turn that into a full 90-minute performance,” he said. “If we can do that, not many teams will be able to stop us.
“We aren’t going into the game taking it lightly, we know that we will have to be on our game and stick to the gameplan. It’s so important that we stick to it for 90 minutes; we did that at their place and won 2-0.
“We have to work our socks off, to the point that the opposition doesn’t know what has hit them, but we’ve also got to enjoy it – and the only way to enjoy it is if we win.”
Brennan confirmed that ex-Chelsea youth star Daniel Pappoe will start the game after an impressive cameo from the bench against St Albans, but Hemel will be missing Reiss Greenidge, James Potton and Ed Asafu-Adjaye through injury. Jack Kelly will be assessed after suffering a knock to the head against St Albans on Tuesday night.