Hemel Town snatched a 94th-minute winner at Braintree Town on Saturday in an upper-tier league clash which pushed the Tudors up to fifth place in the National League South standings.
The feisty affair at the IronmongeryDirect Stadium saw visitors Hemel grab all three points when substitute Ebby Nelson-Abby broke the 1-1 deadlock.
It came after the fourth-placed hosts had laid siege to the Tudors’ goal in the last 10 minutes only for the visitors to break away when Braintree gave away an unnecessary free-kick on the left wing. It resulted in the ball being floating to the far stick where Nelson-Abby was left unmarked to poke the ball home for the winner -- his first goal of the season.
Hemel boss Dean Brennan was delighted with the victory, saying afterwards: “It doesn’t matter when the winning goal comes – they all count – and I felt particularly in the second-half we had more control of the game and were the better side.
“I was down to the bare bones really with only 14 fit players, but I’m proud of them because they stuck to the game plan and never gave up.
“After last week’s disappointment losing the way we did against Hungerford, it was a great response from the lads to put in a shift in difficult conditions against one of the best sides in the league.”
Because of heavy morning rain, referee Wayne Cartmel only gave the go-ahead for the match just an hour before kick-off after home volunteers had managed to clear the pitch of surface water.
The hosts started the brighter and took the lead on 18 minutes when Reece Grant passed the ball down the right for Phil Roberts to chase and he chipped Tudors’ keeper Laurie Walker to make it 1-0.
On the half-hour Marcel Barrington could have added a second but Walker did well to smoother the effort and on 33 minutes the netminder again denied Barrington when he tipped his stinging shot over the bar.
Dogged Hemel fought back and they equalised on 40 minutes when a long cross from the right was headed down by James Kaloczi and Braintree keeper Nathan McDonald could not hold onto it, leaving Spencer McCall free to tap it home for 1-1.
The second-half was a more scrappy affair and on 50 minutes the hosts had a penalty shout when Ricky Gabriel and Hemel midfielder Scotty Shulton collided in the area but referee Cartmel waved away the appeals.
Tempers began to fray as the teams tired in the sodden conditions and the game was interrupted by stoppages and full substitutions from both sides as it looked like a draw was coming - until Nelson-Abby’s last-ditch heroics sealed the points for the travelling Tudors Army.
The game was marred sadly by an allegation made from ex-Braintree man Shulton that anti-semitic comments were made to him by a Braintree player. The allegation was reported to referee Cartmel after the game finished and will be forwarded to the Football Association for their attention.
See the article on the Gazette website for the latest on this developing story.
The victory pushed Hemel up two spots into fifth place in the league standings and they are now just a point adrift of fourth-ranked Braintree and six off leaders Dartford, with a game in hand over both teams.
Next up for Hemel is another tough league test against seventh-placed Chelmsford City at Vauxhall Road on Tuesday night. This is the re-arranged fixture from early November which was postponed due to City’s FA Cup exploits.
The Tudors will then host struggling Poole Town (20th place and in the bottom three relegation places) this Saturday at 3pm.
Line-ups on Saturday:
Hemel: Laurie Walker, Lloyd Doyley, Joe Howe, Jordan Parkes (captain), Matt Saunders, Ismail Yakubu, Alex Osborn (Tyler Campbell 81), Scotty Shulton (Ebby Nelson-Abby 76), David Moyo (Matt Spring 60), James Kaloczi, Spencer McCall. Subs not used: George Mitchell-Grade, Danny Boness.
Braintree: McDonald, Muleba, Gabriel, Ellul, Okoye, Frimpong (Bettache 66), Wyatt, Crook (Allen 5), Barrington, Grant (Oliyide 75). Subs not used: Baxter, Michael-Percil.