Hemel Town’s dreams of making the FA Cup first-round proper are dependant on tonight’s (Tuesday) replay at Oxford City following a 1-1 draw at Vauxhall Road on Saturday -- the winners will face a juicy tie at League Two side Tranmere Rovers.
Tonight’s crunch fixture was due to kick-off as the Gazette newspaper was going to press, with the winners getting a tasty tie at League Two side Tranmere Rovers on November 9.
Check out our website later tonight for an update on the replay.
City have proved to be a tough nut to crack for the Tudors and a draw was a fair result on Saturday as both sides cancelled each other out in a final qualifying round clash of few chances.
It followed a similarly tight affair between the two National League South sides last month when the Tudors just emerged victorious in a 2-1 league victory.
In a near-carbon copy of that encounter, it was City who controlled the game for long periods on Saturday but without really threatening Hemel keeper Laurie Walker as they lacked a cutting edge.
Hemel had the clearer chances in the first period but failed to capitalise. The closest they came was when a Jordan Parkes free-kick hit the inside of the post and then the City keeper Craig King’s back, just missing the goal .
Hemel striker Phil Roberts also had two decent chances but failed to find the target.
The hosts looked to get on the front foot early in the second-half and Karl Oliyide had a great chance early, when he took advantage of a wayward back-pass and raced clear. The linesman waved for offside but the referee overruled him. The errant flag appeared to put off the Tudors’ forward as he stopped before continuing to run on goal. He got a shot away but City keeper and Hemel native King saved well.
It was a short-lived reprieve as the Tudors took the lead on 51 minutes. Some good build-up play from Parkes and Billy Clifford saw the ball rolled across the box to Roberts, who unleashed an unstoppable drive into the roof of the net with King at full stretch.
Oxford made two changes, bringing on the speedy Craig Fasenmade and Kunle Otudeko, which proved to be a turning point as Hemel got pushed further back into their own half.
The equaliser came on 72 minutes after a poor clearance from skipper Darren Ward was swept into the path of Fasenmade, who raced into the box and shot from a tight angle. The ball seemed to have been dealt with by Walker but it slipped from his grasp and bobbled over the line.
With City’s tails up, the Hemel fans started to fear the worst and it was hearts-in- mouths time when Otudeko cut inside in the 85th minute and curled a shot on goal. It looked to be heading for the top corner but a fortunate deflection off defender Tom Hamblin diverted it wide.
Hemel counter-attacked from the corner but Oliyide was cynically brought down on the halfway line. And with a few minutes left on the clock, sub Herschel Sanchez Watt broke into the box but a brave save at his feet by King ensured the game ended all square.
Hemel: Laurie Walker, Kavan Cotter, Kyle Connolly, Jordan Parkes, Tom Hamblin, Darren Ward, Joe Howe (Billy Clifford), James Kaloczi, Karl Oliyide (Matteo Mendy), Phil Roberts, Steve Cawley (Herschel Sanchez Watt). Subs not used: Lloyd Doyley, George Paulin, Sydney Ibie, George Nolan.
Interview with Tudors’ caretaker boss Parkes
The Tudors caretaker player-manager Parkes told interviewer Colin Perreira last week: “A lot of people have said it’s tough to be player-manager, but I’m prepared to work hard and prove people wrong.
“Our run of five wins in all competitions was unbelievable – our best run since the 2013/14 Southern League championship-winning season. On one hand, there’s been a significant change at the club, on the other hand we’re winning games.
“There is a great feeling around the club at the moment. When changes occur it always changes the atmosphere.
“The players have been fantastic since I took over and it has seen a change in style of management. With my role as player-manager I have looked to give the players a voice and listen to what the players are feeling and how we can work together as a group.
“Darren Ward [who was co-manager until a few weeks ago] was fantastic to work with and he helped add to the professional environment that we are looking to create. He has since decided that he would like to continue as a player and not be a part of the management team, which we respect, and we thank him for his time in the management capacity.
“Since then I have brought [former Tudors’ player] Will Hoskins and Scott Cousins in as coaches to help with managing the team and training.”
Asked how he feels about ex-boss Dean Brennan’s departure, Parkes said: “It is an end of an era with Dean and [assistant boss] Stuart [Maynard] leaving and I wish them all the best with their new roles at Billericay.
“Dean and Stuart have been integral to the development of the team over the last six years and have taken the team from the relegation areas in the Southern Premier to the playoffs in the National League South last season.
“Personally, they have certainly helped with my footballing development and gave me an opportunity to play for my home-town team in a position that I felt suited my attributes. I think I repaid them with my goals and leadership on the pitch.
“The team has coped extremely well with the departure. When we took over we looked to increase the positivity within the dressing room, increase the professional standards and look to play some exciting football. With four wins in four games and 15 goals scored, we must be doing something right.
“I’m loving the current role as player-manager and think that I am balancing both roles well alongside running JP Pro Football [coaching] and seeing my family.
“As a coach, I have plenty of experience delivering training sessions, analysing performance and developing players. The role obviously changes in the first-team as we are results and performance-driven now.
“Preparation to match-day changes as you need to deliver team talks, match prep, warm-ups etc but as soon as I’m game-ready then my player-head comes on and I’m focused on my own performance within the team.
“I’m constantly chatting with the senior players within the team to see if we need to change anything and so far it’s working well.
“I’ve always wanted to be involved in managing and coaching as I love the coaching and development of players that I’m currently doing with JP Pro. I didn’t predict that I would be involved at age 29 as I certainly have quite a few years left playing, but when opportunities arise I’m not one to shy away.
“I’ve always had a great relationship with the chairman [Dave Boggins] and have said for him not to worry while he is away on holiday and to get his feet up and relax!
“He works his socks off and deserves the rest. Once he is back from his holiday, we are going to sit down and assess the current situation and see what the best plan of action is going forward.
“I will always treat the players with respect and they have given me the same in return. The way we have approached the last few weeks is that it is a team effort and we will all work hard and battle together to get the results that are needed.”
Asked about the strength of his squad, Parkes said; “This is a very strong squad and a great group of players so there were certainly no concerns in that area. We have had a few injuries happen and have missed some key players, but the depth of the squad shows, and everyone has stepped up to the plate.
“We gave Kavan Cotter a chance in the team and he has grabbed it with both hands and been excellent for us. We have also seen Spencer McCall and Alex Osborn relish their opportunity in the team and have delivered excellent performances.”
He added: “My message to the fans is that we really appreciate all of your support, you are always excellent both home and away. Your dedication to the club shows and we would love to create some lifelong memories for you, so get behind us and sing your hearts out!”