With disappointment on Saturday against Welling, Robbie Simpson’s men travelled down to Berkshire to face strugglers Hungerford Town. A game good for the neutrals, but one that I am sure neither manager enjoyed too much with it being a bit of an up and down game. It was eventful to say that least and the Clarets arguably were lucky to come away without defeat after a good display from Hungerford. The selection headache continues after more future absentees emerged from tonight’s game.
With the midweek fixture, changes were going to have to be made. Announced in spectacular fashion by Sky Sports News Reporter, Michael Bridge, Ben Brookes was in to make his first start. Elsewhere, Callum Jones and Tom Blackwell were both recalled into the Clarets’ starting eleven. Harry Lodovica, Simeon Jackson and Khale Da Costa were the 3 who all dropped to the bench, where they were joined by Arjanit Krasniqi, after he returned from illness, and Freddie Hockey, who was used in the late stages against Welling on Saturday. With Liam Trotter still injured, Kai Yearn looked set to pair up with Henry Ochieng in midfield, once again.
We got underway at Bulpit Lane, with Chelmsford looking to start well from the off. It was Hungerford who came close just 2 minutes in as Ryan Jones’ free kick went all the way through and hooked goalwards but onto the roof of the net. A few minutes later, The Crusaders had another free kick, which was headed up by Frankie Terry and dealt with accordingly. Ben Brookes was tested early on with Joel Rollinson causing problems on the right-hand side, a good test was ahead of Ben on his debut. Just before the 10-minute mark, after some excellent skill Tom Blackwell got himself a good shooting opportunity but twice was thwarted by good blocks by the Hungerford defenders. Hungerford came forward and Berry-Hargreaves linked up well with McGrory to force a corner. No threat was posed to the Clarets and the ball ended up back in the hands of Eddie Beach. Hungerford were forced into an early change after the 15th minute mark as Dan Roberts hobbled off with Niko Muir replacing him. Hungerford were agonisingly close after a long throw was not dealt with by Eddie Beach, leaving a free chance for Muir to send goalwards where, luckily for the Clarets, it was cleared off the line. Just after the 20-minute mark, it was yet again Hungerford coming forward as Jones put a great cross into McGrory who just about turned it over. An opportunity that the Hungerford Chairman, sitting beside me, described as a ‘sitter’.
The Clarets came forward next and after Jazzi Barnum-Bobb had a cross cleared, the ball fell to Ben Brookes who fired his effort over. Once again, McGrory had another good chance for the hosts. A mazy run by Ward was hooked into the box but McGrory failed to get any real contact on the ball, more so deflecting it wide. Ryan Jones found his way into the box just before the half an hour mark after bringing Tom Blackwell down. Tom delivered the free kick, straight onto the head of Dave Winfield who headed across for Callum Jones to head in. Arguably against the run of play, but the Clarets found their way into the lead. Hungerford thought they’d equalised after 32 minutes as Rollinson was teed up well on the edge of the box, where he fired a great shot towards goal. The effort crashed against the bar and bounced down onto the line before Beach was quick to claim and remove any danger. From 1 end to another, Chelmsford got forward after a brilliant ball from Kai Yearn. Callum Jones latched onto it and drove forward, winning a corner. The resultant corner came to nothing after the hosts managed to clear. After 4 minutes were added on, Chelmsford looked to double their lead. Barnum-Bobb sent a low ball across the box, only for it to be cleared well. There was still time for more chances as Ben Brookes whipped in a good ball, only for it to hit the bar and come back into play. Kai then had his shot blocked, which went for a corner. The corner was cleared behind for another. This time, Jed Ward in goal dealt with it well. With the chance dead, Harry Wager brought the half to an end, seeing the Clarets go in with a 1-0 lead.
HALF TIME: HTFC 0-1 CCFC
The second half kicked off after Harry Lodovica was introduced, replacing Frankie Terry. He was involved straight away, giving his opposing defender a run for his money. Hungerford looked to start the second half like they did the first, seeing a flick on defended well and cleaned up by the Clarets’ defence. Chelmsford were immediately back involved with Reece Grant have a chance to shoot, only for to snatch at it and send it wide. The electric start continued with Ryan Jones tiptoeing through the Clarets defender but with no end product as he fired over. Just before 10 minutes played in the second half Hungerford got yet another shot away but once again saw it sail over the bar. After the 10-minute mark, Hungerford got a golden chance, Ward being played in on goal where he could only send his effort wide of the post, after sending it threw Eddie’s legs. With an hour played at Bulpit lane, McGrory had a superb effort, set for the top corner only for Eddie Beach to fly across and make a fantastic save, one which I am sure he will want to see again. Ben Brookes was clearly keen to impressed, to which he was doing as he once again won the ball high up the pitch, where he had a shot on goal but a rather easy one for the keeper. Hungerford came forward again with Jones looking to put a cross in. His effort was sent behind for a corner.
Then, yet again the hosts hit the bar after a wayward shot ended up falling and being clipped by one of their players. It looped over Eddie and hit the bar before Ochieng managed to clear up field. Next up was more Brookes magic. He travelled across the pitch, showing off skills before winning a free kick. He took charge and hit the free kick, but only straight down the keeper’s throat. Hungerford were relentless and won another corner, to which the Chelmsford defence was once again a match too. With just under 20 minutes left to play Robbie turned to the bench and his final 2 subs. Reece Grant and goal scorer Callum Jones made way, seeing the introduction of Khale Da Costa and Arjanit Krasniqi. Then, disaster struck for the Clarets. A volley fired in by McGrory was blocked on the line by Winfield, but the referee deemed it to have come off his hand. Penalty. Deliberate handball. Red Card. Evans stepped up from the spot and slammed it in, pulling the hosts level. With the man advantage, and their tails up, Hungerford looked to get another. As if it looked like it could not get any worse, it did. Hungerford broke and Ochieng, on a yellow pulled his man back and immediately knew his fate. Second yellow and a red card. The Clarets had a mountain to climb to maintain a point with 9 men, let alone get anything more from the game.
Hungerford needed to stay calm and control the game, but the league strugglers did not initially with poor shots flying into Beach’s hands. Yet again Hungerford came forward and won a corner. This time, delivered straight onto the line but headed away yet again by the Clarets’ defence. The final 5 minutes of normal time arrived with Hungerford’s pressure mounting by the second. In the 88th minute, another corner was sent in but Beach punched and was fouled in the process. The hosts did not stop, sending multiple crosses in and wasting them. The board went up, and 4 minutes were added on for what could be the Clarets’ longest 4 of the seasons. Chance after chance, clearance after clearance but the chance to break. Blackwell did excellently but could only do so much, seeing Hungerford break. Cameron stopped it in their tracks and the stand in captain was booked. With 60 seconds on clock another corner was in and even their keeper was up. With the 4 minutes up, on top of the 2 extra played, the 9 men of Chelmsford held on to take a point from Berkshire.
FULL TIME: HTFC 1-1 CCFC
Beach (GK), James, Barnum-Bobb, Winfield (C), Yearn, Blackwell, Jones (Krasniqi 69’), Ochieng, Grant (Da Costa 69’), Brookes, Terry (Lodovica 46’)
Unused subs: Jackson, Hockey
Goal: Jones 29’
Cautions: Grant 39’, Ochieng 43’, Krasniqi 80’, James 90+2’
Sent off: Winfield 74’, Ochieng 78’
Ward (GK), McGrory, Rollinson, Evans, Roberts (Muir 17’), Smith (Adjei-Hersey 69’), Ward, Berry-Hargreaves, Tyler (C) (Gyebi 88’), Bailey, Jones
Unused subs: Delaney, Wylie
Goals: Evans 75’ (Pen)
Caution: Jones 29’
Words By Josh Lowe