Garry Haylock watched his second string players press their claim for promotion to the first team with a demolition of Hemel Hempstead Town on Wednesday night which included a nine minute hat-trick from Craig Watkins.
From the word go, United pressurised the home defence as Josh Andrew’s cross was cleared by Riccardo Biggi only as far as Marc Canham who sent a shot inches wide of the post.
The home side were dealt a blow when keeper Rob Beckwith had to be replaced as early as the 12th minute through injury. Gareth Tinsley replaced him.
Ashley Barnes was next to drag his shot just wide after neat footwork allowed him to cut inside from the left wing following Toby Little’s pass. However, it wasn’t long before the deadlock was broken. Andrew again found space on the right and he passed to Craig Watkins who cleverly laid the ball off to the onrushing Dan Mehmet who composed himself before placing the ball past substitute keeper Tinsley.
This sparked a flurry of goals as five more went in within a twenty minute spell. Mehmet found Andrew in more space on the right and his low centre was converted by Watkins after the forward had cleverly flicked the ball over his marker. Then he powered home Daniel Wishart’s low centre although Tinsley will be disappointed that he didn’t keep it out as it was straight at him.
Watkins completed his hat-trick with an emphatic finish. Again Andrew was involved as he was found by Canham before cutting the ball back for Watkins who, although he had his first shot blocked by Biggi, he crashed the second in off the underside of the bar.
United were rampant at this point. Tinsley dropped Andrew’s cross but recovered to block Wishart’s shot from point blank range. From the resulting corner, he tipped over Charlie Wassmer’s looping header and then from that corner, he denied Wassmer again by blocking the United captain’s close range shot.
It was all in vain however, as a minute later, Barnes passed to Canham and the midfielder curled a delightful shot in off the underside of the bar from long range.
Before half time, it was 6-0 when Canham, Mehmet and Watkins were involved in an exquisite passing move to unlock the Tudors’ defence again and Barnes shot towards goal. Although Tinsley blocked his shot, he was powerless to stop the FEDO forward from tapping in the rebound.
Watkins was withdrawn at half time to allow Ivan Sputaj the chance to impress on the left side, with Wishart moving to centre forward.
United resumed control and from Toby Little’s corner, Sami El-Abd almost bundled the ball in but James Bunday was on hand to clear off the line. Then Nathan Webb picked out Sputaj in space at the far post with a delightful pass but the Latvian winger’s shot was saved by Tinsley.
United stretched their lead further when Wishart dispossessed Wayne Barber before spotting Tinsley off his line and lobbing him from 30 yards out, his shot clipping the bar before nestling into the net.
Little went close twice, the first from Canham’s pass and the second direct from a free kick. However, United came up against a more resilient Hemel Hempstead team until the closing stages, when Mark Doyle headed the ball into the net from Andrew’s corner, only to find that he was penalised for a foul on Tinsley. He was then denied by Tinsley late on after Mehmet had laid the ball into his path from Little’s low cross.
Report by Nick Bell.
United Man of the Match: Marc Canham.