Hemel Hempstead Town 2, Maidenhead United 1
Maidenhead United surrendered their lead at the top of the National League South to Ebbsfleet United after lapses in defence, and a failure to take their chances, resulted in a 2-1 defeat at Hemel Hempstead Town.
Ebbsfleet’s on loan striker Charlie Sheringham did much of the damage for the Tudors, scoring on the volley from forward partner Jake Robinson’s flick on the half hour before clipping a lovely cross in for Robinson to double the home side’s lead seven minutes after the interval.
Unsurprisingly, the Magpies refused to go down without a fight and, after Reiss Greenidge was sent off for a stupid kick-out in the final 10 minutes, the Magpies briefly gave themselves hope of preserving their unbeaten run in 2017 when Dave Tarpey swept home a wonderful free-kick in the 89th minute.
The kitchen sink was thrown at the Tudors in the five minutes of injury time that were added but Dean Brennan’s improving side held on for a second straight win in the league.
For the Magpies it’s now two games without a win in the division and, for the first time since the early weeks of the season, they see another side occupying number one spot, albeit with Fleet having played a game more than Alan Devonshire’s men.
United started today’s match at Vauxhall Road like a side determined to put last weekend’s 1-1 draw at home to Poole Town firmly behind them. First to the ball they had the Tudors rocking on their heels in the opening 10 minutes.
Tarpey’s instinctive, stabbed effort on goal was well held by Jamie Butler in the fifth minute and, after good work down the left by Harry Pritchard and Rene Steer, James Mulley sliced just wide of the far post with a volley from the edge of the box.
The Tudors warmed to their task, however, and, with Sheringham dovetailing nicely with his teammates, they soon caused the league leaders some problems. Sheringham’s shot on the turn from Kyle Connolly’s low ball into him was blocked by Alan Massey in the 14th minute. Then, when the ball fell kindly to the onrushing Jordan Parkes on the edge of the box, he shot into the ground and harmlessly wide of Carl Pentney’s post.
An open game saw Tarpey pull a low shot agonisingly wide of the post, after wonderful work down the right from Mulley in the 25th minute.
But, if both sides had landed punches in the opening half hour, Hemel put the Magpies on the canvas when Sheringham read Robinson’s flicked pass and steered a shot beyond Pentney. Minutes later it might have been worse for the Magpies when Ben Greenhalgh rolled the ball wide of the post, and, just before half-time, Tarpey released Pritchard on the left hand side of Hemel's area but the winger drilled his shot just wide of the post.
The Magpies knew a big 45 minutes was required to keep them on top of the pile but, their desperation to get back into the game played into Hemel’s hands. Greenhalgh hit the crossbar after beating Pentney with a shot in the early moments of the second half. Then, with the Magpies defence again caught out of position, Sheringham crossed for Robinson to guide a header into the bottom corner. It proved a knock out blow.
United must have known it wouldn’t be their day when Dean Inman’s header from an inswinging Tarpey set piece bounced back off the inside of the post in the 63rd minute and Butler managed to scramble the ball behind. A few minutes later Sean Marks’ rose well to loop a header goalwards but Hemel had bodies back and cleared from underneath the crossbar.
James Comley made a welcome return to first team action, having recovered from a broken hand, as a second half substitute for Kieron Forbes, and his presence put the visitors back on the front foot. Hemel defender Greenidge was dismissed for a stupid off the ball kick out in the final 10 minutes, and United were given further encouragement when Tarpey’s free-kick from the edge of the box curled beyond Butler and into the top corner. Substitute Jordan Cox thought he'd nicked a point in the final seconds but was adjudged to have fouled Butler putting the ball in the net from Inman's header and the depleted Tudors held on for a win which could prove very significant in this season’s title race.
Ebbsfleet head the table on goal difference from United with both teams on 60 points. United will look to respond when they host Whitehawk at York Road next Saturday.
Maidenhead United: Pentney, Peters, Steer, Upward (Cox 58'), Massey, Inman, Tarpey, Forbes (Comley 75'), Marks, Mulley (Barratt 58'), Pritchard. Subs not used: Hammond, Smith.
Highlights uploaded to Youtube by FC Video.
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