Hemel survival hopes hanging by a thread

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Leamington 3 Hemel Hempstead Town 1

HEMEL Town’s survival chances took a huge blow on Saturday as they suffered a disappointing defeat at Leamington.

Nabil Shariff. Picture by Darren Kelly.

Nabil Shariff. Picture by Darren Kelly.

With time running out to avoid the dreaded drop, Hemel were targeting points against seventh-placed Leamington, but the Tudors put in a tepid display to come away empty-handed.

The defeat leaves Mark Eaton’s side languishing in 21st position in the Evo-Stik Southern Premier Division table, seven points adrift of safety with just three games left to play.

The Fat Lady may not be singing just yet, but she is certainly warming up her vocal cords.

But while things look bleak for the Tudors, boss Eaton insists he has still not given up hope of launching a great escape in the remaining three games of the season.

“We are not down yet,” he said. “We’ve still got three games left and we can still reach the points target I set.

“It’s important that we accumulate as many points as possible and we have got to stay positive and keep believing that we can get out of this.

“We are running out of games so the players have got to stand up and be counted and show how much they want it.”

The Tudors know they will need to perform better than they did against Leamington if they are to avoid relegation.

The game started evenly, but the hosts began to take control of the game as the first half progressed – forcing a number of good saves from Hemel keeper Mike McEntegart.

Ross Lafayette and Ryan Blake both fired over at the other end, but it was Leamington who took the lead from the penalty spot.

Tudors full-back Danny May was adjudged to have pushed Lee Chilton in the box, and Stephan Morley stepped up to squeeze his effort past McEntegart.

And Hemel found themselves two goals behind shortly before half-time.

A long punt downfield from Leamington keeper Nathan Vaughan caught the Town defence napping, and Lee Steele nipped in to lob home.

Hemel rallied at the start of the second half, though, and reduced the deficit after 61 minutes as Nabil Sharif finished off a good move down the right.

The visiting supporters were hoping for a dramatic comeback, but the hope proved to be short-lived as Leamington restored their two-goal advantage almost immediately as Jason Blyth fired home.

That left Hemel too much to do, and with no further goals, the Tudors were left empty-handed once again.

They must pick themselves up quickly, though, if they are to stand any chance of survival.

Next up for Eaton’s side is a crucial clash with Oxford City at Vauxhall Road on Thursday night.