Hemel Hempstead Town will turn their attention to the magic of the FA Cup on Saturday as they face Sutton United for the second time in as many games.
Hemel will be aiming to carry the momentum from last week’s comeback draw at Sutton into Saturday’s FA Cup showdown with the same opponents at Vauxhall Road (kick-off 3pm).
The Tudors looked to be heading for defeat in their National League South encounter at The Borough Sports Ground last Saturday, when they trailed 2-0 with just 17 minutes remaining in a match the home side had dominated.
But a close-range James Potton finish and then a penalty from Ben Herd claimed a share of the spoils, and Hemel will now go into Saturday’s third qualifying round clash in good spirits after maintaining their unbeaten run on the road this season.
Hemel made sure they were match sharp by taking on a Crystal Palace development side in a friendly this morning, winning the game 3-2 with goals from Matty Spring, Oliver Hawkins and a trialist.
Speaking after this morning’s match, Tudors manager Dean Brennan – who played the second half of the game – said: “A few of the lads who were coming back from injury needed minutes so we just played two 40-minute halves.
Both teams want to progress in the competition because it’s the greatest competition in the world.Hemel Town FC manager Dean Brennan
“It also gave us a chance to look at a few different things for Saturday so it was a good exercise.”
Looking ahead to Saturday, Brennan is expecting another tough test against a Sutton side he described as the best team Hemel have faced so far.
“We are very lucky because we’ve had Non-League Day quite a few times at home; that in itself is a fantastic occasion and obviously the FA Cup makes it even more special,” he said.
“You need the luck in the cup, definitely. Looking back at the game against Sutton last week, they were definitely the better team in the first half and probably the best team we have played so far this season.
“But we showed great togetherness and character in the second half. We made a couple of tactical changes which paid off, and we rode our luck a little bit. But as I always say, the harder you work the luckier you get – that will be the same this weekend.
“We need to work our socks off and make sure that we outwork the opponent.”
The Tudors boss is hoping for a bumper crowd at Vauxhall Road on Saturday, and has called on the home side to be Hemel’s 12th man.
“Both teams want to progress in the competition because it’s the greatest competition in the world,” he said. “It brings that buzz to the club and hopefully it can be a fantastic occasion. Our supporters have been excellent on the road, and hopefully they can now start really being our 12th man at home.
“We want to make Vauxhall Road a horrible place for opposing teams to come to, so we have really got to improve or home form.”
As to whether last weekend’s result will have a bearing on Saturday’s game, Brennan continued: “I’d hope we have learnt from the last game but only time will tell.
“One thing I do know is that any game against Sutton is always a fantastic game; there’s always drama, there’s always something going on and we need a strong referee.
“Ours wasn’t a penalty at their place and their red card probably wasn’t a sending off, but all through the game Oliver Hawkins was being manhandled and we need a strong referee to stamp that out of the game.”
On his squad availability for the clash, Brennan added: “In terms of loanees, Josh Hill will be available but Victor Adeboyejo isn’t.
“Jamie Slabber’s still injured, Dennis Oli is 50/50 and Jack Smith is 50/50 so we have still got a few fitness tests to do. Ed Asafu-Adjaye had another injection in his knee yesterday so he’s still out, and these are big players for us.
“Considering everything that’s happened this year, I’m quite happy with where we are at this present time.”