Saints exit Herts Senior Cup in controversy laden match

James Gray confronted referee Ashvin Degnarain after the game. Picture: Bob Walkley

James Gray confronted referee Ashvin Degnarain after the game. Picture: Bob Walkley - Credit: Archant

Controversy reigned supreme on Tuesday night when St Albans City were knocked out of the Herts Senior Cup by Hemel Hempstead at Vauxhall Road.

James Comley is pulled down by Hemel goalkeeper Jack Smith, who received a yellow card for the foul.

James Comley is pulled down by Hemel goalkeeper Jack Smith, who received a yellow card for the foul. Picture: Bob Walkley - Credit: Archant

The main talking point came in the first half when joint manager James Gray was sent off after remonstrating with the linesman after Hemel’s second goal but it was of many controversial moments in the tie that should have seen two Tudors dismissed.

With the Tudors set to take a corner, Gray signalled the linesman to make a substitution to replace the injured David Keenleyside but the referee – the same official who sent off Richard Graham in the FA Trophy – allowed play to continue and Jordan Parkes lashed the ball past Tom Coulton.

Gray went ballistic at the linesman and was duly sent off by Mr Degnarain, who had an appalling game.

In truth the result was not affected by Gray’s dismissal as the Tudors were the better side for the first 60 minutes, although momentum swung in the last 30 minutes as City staged a remarkable fight back to nearly force extra-time.

On a cold night, and a on a dreadful pitch, the hosts had the first chance of the game, and it came before many of the fans had even settled in. David King’s ball down the right wing into the box beat the offside trap, but, while City’s defenders stood and watched, Tom Coulton was alert enough to make a reaction save to deny Tommy Berwick at his near post.

The early warning served to wake City up and they attacked with more cohesion, albeit without threatening Jack Smith in the Hemel goal.

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Berwick had another chance in the 11th minute but his tame volley went wide after Jordan Parkes’ corner found the front man at the back post.

The next chance of a quiet opening 20 minutes fell to King after City tried and failed to successfully clear a cross but his left footed half-volley from 30 yards was sliced wide.

For all the warning signs, Hemel took the lead in the 27th minute, via the right foot of Lewis Toomey. City were the architects of their own downfall, first giving the ball away high in the Tudor’s half before presenting Toomey the opportunity to dispossess James Kaloczi on the touchline, round Darren Locke and fire past Coulton.

The hosts continued to push and they almost doubled lead, first Toomey was denied by a sliding tackle from Locke and then Parkes blazed over when he should have hit the target – a feat he repeated in the 31st minute.

Lee Chappell had City’s first real sight of goal soon after when Kaloczi challenged King to David Keenleyside’s free kick from deep. The loose ball fell to the left-back who thundered a strike towards goal but it was blocked wide, seemingly with an arm although there was no appeal, by a Kieran Murphy defender.

Mark Nwokeji was next to Saint in on goal and he should have levelled the game but his effort cleared the crossbar. Nwokeji did better with his next chance, outmuscling Murphy to collect Chappell’s long ball, but the defender recovered to get a deflection on the ball, which fell kindly Smith.

Just before half-time Parkes got on the scoresheet. Joint manager James Gray was calling for a substitute to replace Keenleyside, who was injured, but the referee allowed Hemel to take a short corner to Parkes, which he thundered across the face of goal and into the far corner.

City did make the change after the goal with Taylor coming on for Keenleyside but not before Gray was sent off for remonstrating with the linesman, bringing a dismal half for the Saints to an end.

After a sloppy start to the second half, City pulled a goal back through Mark Nwokeji, his second goal in two games. Taylor created the chance with a run down the left wing before he cut in, rounded a defender and set up Nwokeji with an easy header.

Hemel quickly restored their two-goal advantage and it was Parkes with his second goal of the game, finishing off a slick passing move.

And he completed his hat-trick just after the hour mark. Parkes’ first shot from Berwick’s cross was blocked but the ball bounced back into his path and he placed it into the bottom corner.

At 4-1 down, St Albans went for broke by introducing John Frendo for Danny Green in the 63rd minute and it paid dividends when he scored a penalty seven minutes later. But it was James Comley who made the goal. The skipper dispossessed Smith in his own box and the keeper hastily hauled him down. However, the referee only brandished his yellow card when it should have been red.

Three minutes later the referee decided to keep his red card in his pocket again when King went through the back of Comley long after the ball had gone, but a yellow was all he got.

Shane Blackett then came to Hemel’s rescue to header Chris Henry’s goal-bound effort off the line before Frendo put an effort over the bar when he should have scored.

Saints continued to press and got their reward in the 85th minute as Frendo latched onto an errant clearance and curled the ball in at the far corner. City were fully in the ascendency in the game’s final stages but the fourth goal remained elusive and Hemel progressed to the semi-final of Senior Cup.

Hemel Hempstead starting lineup: Jack Smith, David King, Shane Blackett, Jordan Parkes, Kieran Murphy, Moussa Diarra, Oliver Thorne, David Hutton, Luke Allen, Tommy Berwick, Lewis Toomey. Subs: Daniel Talbot, Dave Pearce, Kyle Connolly, Danny May, Laurie Walker.

St Albans City starting lineup: Tom Coulton, Howard Hall, Lee Chappell, Ram Marwa, James Kaloczi, Darren Locke, Danny Green, James Comley, David Keenleyside, Mark Nwokeji, Chris Henry. Subs: Richard Graham, John Frendo, Matt Taylor, Kerrea Gilbert, Joel Watson.