CHELMSFORD CITY 2 HEMEL HEMPSTEAD TOWN 1
Chelmsford City staged a hard fought first half comeback to beat Hemel Hempstead 2-1 at Melbourne Park.
Reports Dan Deakins...
Goals from Scott Fenwick and Tom Wraight secured the Clarets' fifth home win in six games, after Steve Cawley had capitalised on Ashley Maynard-Brewer's error to take the early lead.
The second half was a battle and became a nervy contest towards the end as both sides missed crucial chances.
Cawley stunned the home crowd with an embarrassing lob over Ashley Maynard-Brewer in just the second minute. A long ball was played over City's press, forcing the loanee keeper to run out, but the number nine assessed the situation perfectly to sail the ball 35 yards into the empty net. Considering the lightning fast start against Billericay on Boxing Day, this was way off the expected standard.
Hemel's plan was clear: defend deep in a 4-5-1 to absorb the high press and counter with long balls up to Cawley as the lone striker. The plan that may have been but Cawley found himself offside more often than not, so with City unable to break through at the other end, the game became a scrappy, uncontrolled encounter.
After a long period of disjointed play, the Clarets had their first chance after 18 minutes. Chris Whelpdale superbly overlapped Elliot Omozusi down the right before whipping a cross to the back post. Fenwick got on the end of it but wasn't quite in control of the effort which dropped just wide of the goal.
Chelmsford had a penalty appeal turned down in the 30th minute, when Rhys Murphy's edge of the box cross was blocked somewhat dubiously by a Hemel defender. Both Rod Stringer and the players were apoplectic with rage and dismayed at the decision.
No matter, Fenwick grabbed the equaliser a minute later. The ball was popping around the box from a corner, with neither side able to either create a clear chance or clear the danger. However, after an almighty melee, the ball fell neatly at the trusty feet of Fenwick who finished into the far bottom corner.
Wraight scored City's second goal in five minutes, completing a hard earned first half comeback. The midfielder got away down the left side of the box, and while his first effort was blocked, the rebound bounced up and flew in off his knee.
Maynard-Brewer committed another howler in the same minute of the second half as the first. Once again it was a long ball over the top, chased by Cawley, that he tried to claim. But instead of clearing it he took a touch outside the box and it flicked up into his arm. Whether accidental handball or not, he received a yellow. Luckily it didn't prevent a clear goal scoring opportunity, and a red card, as City didn't have a goalkeeper on the bench.
Rob Sinclair could've equalised for Hemel on the hour, after a searing run down the left. He dribbled past a handful of City players into the six yard box before unleashing a shot that was parried out to Jordan Parkes, whose shot from the right corner of the penalty area was put out for a corner.
Chelmsford should have put the game to bed shortly after. Murphy was put clean through on Laurie Walker but blazed what should have been a simple finish over the crossbar.
Sinclair missed an embarrassingly easy chance to equalise as the match moved into the last 20 minutes. Hemel found space down City's left and crossed a superb ball into the box, but with no one challenging and the goal at his mercy, the number 10 somehow put his header over the bar.
Maynard-Brewer had pulled off some decent saves in the second half to go some way to redeeming for his earlier errors, and his reflexes to prevent Ismail Yakubu's effort may have been the most important of the game so far. From Hemel's corner, the centre back rose best and his header was adeptly stopped low to the keeper's right.
Hemel were really pushing for an equaliser in the last 10 minutes, and City didn't seem to be able to abate the pressure. They were now leaving two upfront for the counter-attack instead of the earlier one when they were in the lead.
While Hemel pushed for an equaliser, City were making it an end to end contest as they searched for the game affirming third. Substitutes Mikhail Kennedy and Tobi Sho-Silva had a plethora of chances, but through indecisiveness and carelessness couldn't fashion anything resembling scoring opportunities.