Hemel Hempstead Town’s poor early season form now seems very much behind them as they maintained their good run of results with a 2-1 win over Sutton United on Saturday at the Borough Sports Ground, writes Luke Weston.
The Tudors are now unbeaten in the league since October 4 and sit just five points off the play-offs in 13th position which some supporters wouldn’t have dreamed of in late September.
After coming up from the Southern Premier League as champions, the Tudors – led by management duo Dean Brennan and Stuart Maynard – initially struggled to adapt to new surroundings as they were condemned to five defeats in their opening 10 league encounters.
It’s the highest the club have ever played at, and it was always going to take time to adapt to that new level but now there appears to be some momentum building with a number of consistent performances seeing Hemel climb the league ladder.
It’s been their ability to pick up points on the road which stands out, with the Reds joint-top of the away form-table with six wins from eight.
The weekend triumph over Sutton, courtesy of Captain Jordan Parkes’ double, was their third straight win on their travels which included victories at Bishop’s Stortford (3-1) and Bromley (1-0) in midweek.
There’s been no problem picking up points away, it’s just been at home where the Tudors have struggled as they remain winless at Vauxhall Road.
Nonetheless listening to Dean Brennan’s interview last week, he doesn’t seem to be too concerned about that fact as they are creating the chances but are unfortunately not being rewarded for their efforts.
Goals haven’t been as easy to come by compared to last year’s which seemed to come in abundance, however it’s been Hemel’s aptitude to compete and grind out results at a higher level which has been notable.
They’ve had to adapt their free-flowing football which gave them so much success last season, and smarten up defensively to ensure they don’t become pushovers in this division.
The management team have used their wealth of experience and contacts very well to bolster the squad in essential areas. Jorell Johnson, who is currently on-loan from Watford, and Ed Asafu-Adjaye who signed from Forest Green Rovers, have been instrumental to solving Hemel’s defensive problems and have become permanent fixtures within the back-four.
Summer signings James Potton (Chesham United), James Simmonds (Hampton & Richmond) and Wes Daly (Basingstoke Town) have all proved their worth in midfield, including during the FA Cup first round 3-1 defeat at Bury where Potton briefly put the Tudors ahead.
Brennan has continued to strengthen the Tudors over the last couple of weeks with talented youngsters Zane Banton and Ian Rees both arriving from Luton Town on-loan.
Former Fulham Academy midfielder Matt Saunders has joined from Dover Athletic and defender Arthur Lee signed from St Neots Town in early November, giving more meat to the Tudors’ squad as they go forward in this campaign.
Survival is obviously the most important part of the Tudors’ debut in the Conference South, however if their impressive streak of results continues to go on, and they keep climbing the league table, they might just have other teams above them sweating rather than Hemel needing to look over their own shoulder.
The remaining title winning players from last year have modified remarkably well to their new environment and have been joined by a number of top quality players who have added to the ingredients of Brennan’s project.
Fourth-placed Basingstoke Town are the next visitors to Vauxhall Road, and if Hemel can beat the Dragons, not only will they end their quest for a win at home, but they will also complete a double over their opponents, after a 1-0 success on the opening day.
There are still 26 league games left of the season, but Hemel now seem settled and physically up for the battle – what remains is an exciting period where anything could be achievable.