Tudors strike at the death to deny St Albans in derby thriller
Hemel Town left it late again as they struck in the 90th minute to rescue a 2-2 draw with St Albans City and strengthen their claims for a place in the National League South playoffs.
The Tudors looked dead and buried at 2-0 down with just over 20 minutes left to play, but Ibra Sekajja pulled a goal back, before Adam Bailey-Dennis headed home at the death to salvage a point.
The draw puts Hemel one point clear of Maidenhead United and Dartford in fifth spot, with just three games of the season left to play – meaning that their fate is still very much in their own hands.
It was a vital point against a rejuvenated St Albans side who, although battling against relegation, are one of the form sides in the division.
St Albans came close to making the dream start as former Hemel centre-back Ed Oshodi controlled the ball well on the edge of the area and fired just wide of Jamie Butler’s post.
The Tudors had two glorious chances to break the deadlock at the other end soon afterwards as Jack Kelly’s deflected strike was tipped round the post by Joe Welch, before Ollie Thorne headed over when completely unmarked at the back post.
St Albans should have gone in front on the half-hour mark when a quick break left Harry Anderson clean through on goal, but Butler was off his line quickly to make a vital block at the midfielder’s feet.
And it was the visitors who eventually broke the deadlock five minutes before half-time. A sweeping counter saw Anderson release Michael Thalassitis down the left flank, and his first time cross was turned into his own net by Hemel skipper Kyle Connolly.
The goal clearly buoyed the resurgent Saints and they came close to extending their lead on two occasions at the end of the first half as Butler was forced into good saves to deny both Louie Theophaneous and Oshodi.
Hemel knew that they needed a quick-fire start to the second half and introduced winger Graeme Montgomery in place of left-back Jack Kelly, but disaster struck in the 55th minute as St Albans added a second goal.
The visitors broke quickly and won a corner after a decent header across goal by Thalassitis, and it was the same man who rose highest to head the visitors into a two-goal lead.
Hemel were shell-shocked while St Albans continued to look dangerous on the counter-attack, with only a decent stop from Butler preventing Theophaneous from extending the visitors’ lead on the hour mark.
Hemel looked out of sorts, but they were given a lifeline in the 69th minute as Sekajja latched on to a through-ball from Daniel Pappoe and fired home with aplomb to halve the deficit.
The Tudors continued to press forward in search of an equaliser but were struggling to break down a determined St Albans defence as the clock ticked down.
But we all know that you can never write the Tudors off until the final whistle blows, and Bailey-Dennis pounced at the death to rescue a valuable point for his side.
Hemel Hempstead Town: 1 Jamie Butler, 2 Ben Herd, 3 Jack Kelly (16 Graeme Montgomery, 51 mins), 4 Mat Mitchel-King, 5 Kyle Connolly (c), 6 Matty Spring (12 Harry Hickford, 60 mins) 7 Ricky Wellard, 8 Oliver Thorne (15 Daniel Pappoe, 60 mins), 9 Ibra Sekajja, 10 Morgan Ferrier, 11 Adam Bailey-Dennis. Subs not used: 14 Michael Richens, 17 Xavier Comas-Leon.
St Albans City: 1 Joe Welch, 2 Scott Thomas, 3 Tom Bender, 4 James Kaloczi, 5 Ed Oshodi, 6 Darren Locke, 7 Harry Anderson, 8 Sam Corcoran (c), 9 Louie Theophaneous, 10 Michael Thalassitis (12 Billy Gibson, 81 mins), 11 Lee Chappell. Subs not used: 14 Emmanuel Udoji, 15 Danny Green, 16 Andrew Iwediuno, 17 Lee Allinson.