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Stourbridge 2 Hemel Hempstead Town 3
5:56pm Saturday 16th February 2013 in Football
DIRE defending cost Stourbridge dear as Hemel Hempstead Town claimed victory at Amblecote.
Sean Geddes hit the bar for the hosts early on but Dave Pearce fired the visitors ahead when he converted Alex Campana’s cross.
Goals either side of half-time from Moussa Diarra and Ryan Charles then seemed to have set Hemel on their way to a comfortable win.
But goals in the final ten minutes from Drew Canavan and Ben Billingham ensured a grandstand finish.
The Glassboys laid siege to the Hemel goal in stoppage time but they couldn’t find an equaliser.
In truth, it wouldn’t have been deserved and while the final score may indicate a thriller, in reality the game wasn’t that close.
While Stour should receive credit for the way they kept fighting, the final nine minutes should not disguise the mostly dreadful 81 minutes which preceded it.
The most pivotal moment of the day may have occurred in the pre-game warm up when centre-back Nathan Bennett pulled up injured. Shorn of their defensive leader, Stour’s backline looked a shadow of its usual dependable self as mistake followed mistake.
While the defenders were struggling, keeper Dean Coleman had an all round nightmare. His inconsistent kicking in particular was a concern and set up numerous Hemel attacks, one of which lead to what ultimately was the winning goal.
Stour would have overtaken Hemel in second place with a victory but there could be no denying the visitors were well worthy of their win. They assumed control of the midfield after a bright opening from the hosts and were seeing the game out in relative comfort before Stour’s late rally.
The opening nine minutes had featured nothing of interest before Geddes almost broke the deadlock with a spectacular effort, blasting a shot which swerved this way and that, before dipping after it had passed a motionless Ashley Timms and crashing off the bar.
More efforts began to follow. Luke Benbow shot wide from just outside the box after evading a couple of challenges. Sean Evans directed a free header straight at Timms at the far post.
Hemel had shown some nice approach play without creating a chance but when they did so, it was taken. A good passing move eventually found Campana out on the left of the box and he reached the byline before pulling a cross back to the unmarked Pearce, who swept a first time shot past Coleman.
Stour were looking suspect defensively and ten minutes later a catalogue of mistakes gave Hemel a second. A cleared free-kick was returned into the box where three unmarked visiting players were waiting. Former Spurs man David Hutton eventually had the shot but even then, Coleman should really have held the effort instead of palming it out to Diarra, who fired home from six yards out.
The visitors now looked threatening with every attack and Stour’s defensive struggles were summed up in first half stoppage time, when Jamie Oliver almost gifted Charles a one-on-one with Coleman after letting the ball run over his foot. Fortunately for the defender, the striker was ruled to be offside.
Stour needed a reaction and almost pulled a goal back within the opening seconds of the second half but Timms proved equal to Evans’ far post header.
But that was as close as they got and the game was looked over when Charles made it three. Another poor kick out from Coleman only went as far as Campana, who managed to hold off the challenge of Oliver before slipping the ball through to Charles who finished with ease.
Stour introduced James Spray, Canavan and James McPike as they sought for a spark but too often the final ball was lacking. Timms wasn’t tested before Canavan pulled one back with nine minutes to go, curling a delightful shot into the far corner from the edge of the box.
Suddenly the hosts came to life and Geddes almost pulled another goal back when he screwed a shot wide from inside the area.
Billingham then set up a grandstand finish when he cut in from the right and fired a shot into the far corner.
The Glassboys pushed for an equaliser during four minutes of stoppage time but a Geddes header which went wide was the closest they came, while manager Gary Hackett was sent to the stands by referee Ollie Yates as tempers boiled over.
GLASSBOYS: Coleman, Fitzpatrick (Canavan 62), Oliver, McCone, Geddes, Osborne, Lloyd, Broadhust, Benbow (McPike 75), Billingham, Evans (Spray 62) Subs not used: Hurren, Turton.
Goals: Canavan 81, Billingham 90.
HEMEL: Timms, May, Parkes (c), Diarra (Gilbert 45), Anderson, Talbot, Campana (Rose 80), King, Pearce, Charles, Hutton (Fagan 90) Subs not used: Holmes, Beagle.
Goals: Pearce 27, Diarra 37, Charles 59.