WEYMOUTH O HEMEL HEMPSTEAD TOWN 1
THE Terras could count themselves unlucky at the Bob Lucas Stadium on Saturday after more than matching high-flying Hemel Hempstead Town.
Weymouth played some neat stuff at times and created several opportunities but in the end it was a fortuitous goal from the visitors that eventually settled matters.
Injury forced defensive duo Sam Poole (groin) and Barry McConnell (shin) to miss out for the home side with Alex Jeannin and Scott Dixon lining up alongside Kyle Critchell and Lewis Clarke at the back.
The front six remained the same though with Dan Smith, Scott Walker and Craig Duff playing behind lone forward Ben Joyce with Stephen Reed and Danny Clay the sitting pair in midfield.
Reserve team duo Jamie Perry and Lee Sharpe joined Louis Smith, Matt Groves and the returning Mark Ford on the bench. The latter missed the FA Cup replay victory over Totton & Eling last Tuesday due to work commitments.
With Hemel sitting second in the table at kick-off, Weymouth knew they had to make a fast start and within four minutes they had the Tudors under pressure with defender Kyle Anthony failing to deal with an awkward ball into the box, which led to Dan Smith firing a shot into the side netting.
Ben Joyce then lifted the ball over onrushing keeper Sam Beagle, only to see a covering defender make a timely clearance, before Dan Smith fired another effort across the face of goal and just wide of the far post.
Having scored 17 goals in their opening six league games, it was only a matter of time before Hemel responded with Alex Campana firing off target in the ninth minute following good work from Dave Pearce.
Scott Walker then tested Beagle from distance at the other end as the open nature of the contest continued. Dan Smith was once again looking impressive and on the half-hour he weaved his way down the left, combined with Joyce, and then fired in a shot which Beagle held despite a slight deflection.
The Terras were beginning to get on top but after Craig Duff had sent a looping effort over the bar, Hemel grabbed what had seemed an unlikely opener on 35 minutes.
Campana found space down the right and when he cut inside Dixon and shot, the ball deflected past the unfortunate Simon Evans and into the path of Mpi, who supplied the finishing touch. The Terras’ immediately screamed for an offside flag but it never materialised.
That rocked the hosts and moments later Mpi missed a great chance to grab a second when he outpaced Jeannin, only to see his shot roll agonisingly wide after a vital touch from Evans.
The Terras desperately needed to compose themselves and it was skipper Walker that led the way, driving a shot just past the right-hand post on the cusp of half-time.
The ex-Truro City man then headed against a post at the start of the second period following a fine cross from Dan Smith before the dangerous Mpi raced away at the other end, only to get upended outside the box by the onrushing Evans, who was rightly booked.
The powerful and fleet-footed Hemel forward was proving a constant menace on the break but Weymouth had no other choice but to push on, which inevitably left gaps at the back.
Dan Smith sent another effort into the side netting before Mpi headed over following a corner as both teams continued pushing for that all-important second goal of the game.
As you would expect the Terras were the ones dictating and on 66 minutes they threw on another striker in Ford and reverted to a 4-4-2 system with Walker slotting in at left-back.
Shortly after, Beagle spilled a shot by Duff but managed to gather at the second attempt before a nasty collision between Critchell and Evans led to a clash between Jeannin and Hemel’s Richard Langley.
The latter appeared to send a flailing arm towards the Frenchman’s face but referee Lewis Price and his assistant decided to just give both players a ticking off much to the crowd’s disbelief.
As the game drew to a close, Weymouth ran out of ideas and Mpi nearly made them pay when he shrugged off Jeannin, only to see Evans come to the rescue with a point-blank save at the near post.
The victory was enough to keep Hemel just one point adrift of Leamington at the summit and if Weymouth continue to play like they did in the first half, it will not be long before they are climbing up the table too.
Terras: Evans, Critchell, Jeannin, Clarke, Dixon (Ford 66), Clay, Reed, Duff, D Smith, Walker, Joyce. Subs not used: Perry, Sharpe, L Smith, Groves.
Hemel: Beagle, Hutchins, Parson, Bruce, Anthony, Langley (Hitchcock 75), Mpi (Bakare 90), O’Leary, Pearce, Nolan (Judge 78), Campana. Subs not used: Ayodele, Osborn.