Hemel Town concluded their pre-season campaign with a 3-2 victory over neighbours Berkhamsted FC on Saturday.
It was the last chance for new Tudors’ boss Sammy Moore to see his charges in action ahead of the National League South opener this weekend.
An entertaining friendly between two old rivals at Vauxhall Road ended with Hemel just edging it with a last-minute winner, writes Allan Mitchell.
The Tudors started with a much-changed side from the one that had given MK Dons a run for their money the previous Tuesday.
It included a few trialists which affected their performance somewhat, while the visitors were in no mood to make things easy for the hosts.
With so many changes it was difficult for Hemel to get going but they took the lead after just four minutes when Sam Ashford drove into the box and evaded several challenges before tucking the ball home via the far post.
If the home fans were expecting the floodgates to open, it never happened as a well-organised and disciplined Berko side kept their shape and worked hard to close their opponents down.
They were rewarded on 12 minutes when Jonathan Lacey raced down the right and crossed to ex-Tudor Lewis Toomey who expertly finished at the near post.
Lacey then put his side in front when he once again raced clear of a sleepy Tudors’ defence before rounding the keeper on the half-hour mark.
The second period continued to be disjointed but changed with half-an-hour on the clock when Hemel brought on five substitutes.
The Comrades also changed several of their starting line-up and it was a case of holding out after this point.
Hemel created chances but hadn’t really troubled Xavi Comas in the Berko goal until the 67th minute when Jaqcques Kpohomouh rose unchallenged to head goalwards, the unfortunate keeper appeared to have it covered but it slipped through his grasp and over the line to level the scores at 2-2.
The game appeared to be meandering towards a draw until the 90th minute when a long ball caught the visitors’ defence out, their young substitute keeper could only head the ball away as he raced out of his area and Craig Brahim- Barrett superbly chipped it first-time into the unguarded net from 25 yards to give The Tudors a 3-2 victory.
There was still time for a late Berko attack that caused a few worries for the Tudors faithful, but in the end they held out for the win.
The result was a bit harsh on The Comrades but they will reflect on a good performance that bodes well for the coming season.
Meanwhile, last Tuesday night The Tudors suffered their first defeat under new boss Moore, but it came against a very strong MK Dons side who were also unbeaten in the pre-season going into this clash.
Hemel looked a bit nervous early on and the League One outfit had lots of possession but didn’t really create too many clear-cut chances, which was largely down to the hard work and covering by the Tudors’ back-four, who are showing signs of being a tight outfit.
As the first-half wore on, the hosts grew in confidence and started to create decent opportunities of their own.
Tyrone Sterling tried a speculative overhead kick that flew just wide and Alex Wall brought the first save of note from Stuart Moore, who saved well at his near post.
Hemel had a chance just before the break after a Dons defender blocked a shot with his hand, just outside the box, but Wall’s free-kick smashed into the wall and was cleared.
The second period started slowly but was brought to life by a superb individual goal by Dons’ sub Dylan Asonganyi. He collected the ball just inside the Hemel half and drove towards goal, with the Tudors’ backline retreating. He tricked his way to the edge of the box before unleashing a drive into the corner, leaving keeper Sam Beasant no chance.
This didn’t open the floodgates despite a period of Dons pressure and once again Hemel started to trouble their back four.
Liam Nash had a shot deflected just wide before the impressive Wall brought a great save out of Dons’ stopper Moore, forcing him to tip the ball over the bar.
Both sides made several changes near the end and the game lost its momentum, with the League One outfit comfortably seeing out the remaining minutes.
All in all, it was another impressive display by The Tudors in front of a healthy pre-season crowd of 506 people.
Tudors’ boss Moore will be hoping for more of the same for the big league curtain-raiser this Saturday when Hemel host Hungerford Town at Vauxhall Road (3pm kick-off).
Hemel v MK Dons: Sam Beasant, Tosan Popo, Craig Braham-Barrett (Jack Midson), Luke Howell, Connor Essam (captain), Tyrone Sterling (Mitch Dickenson), Isaac Galliford, Jake Howells (Jacques Kpohomouh), Alex Wall (Munashe Sundrie), Liam Nash, Sam Ashford (Lucas Perry). Sub not used: Danny Boness.
Tudors’ man of the match: Alex Wall.