Much of the pre-match hype centred around the Hemel connections of a number of the Slough Town players and staff, and the Rebels lined up with no less than five of the team which finished in the play-off places in the Southern Premier league last season.
The match itself failed to live up to expectations, as it developed into an tight contest between two evenly matched teams.
Hemel played neat, attractive football, with Slough soaking up pressure from long spells of possession from the hosts. Neither side threatened the goals until the twenty minute mark, but Hilliard struck the ball well wide after a free kick had been half cleared.
Slough’s first real attack of note saw Danny Jordan’s shot blocked by James Hasell after he was played in by Sinclair, with the ball spinning away from Hayes who was lurking in the middle. Hayes then sidefooted a half-chance into the arms of Hasell at the back post from another Sinclair cross.
Hilliard’s low shot after a strong run down the right by Adam Bernard was saved comfortably by Jackson as a goalless first half drew to a close.
Both sides were looking for a flash of inspiration to open the scoring, and Tyrone Sealey almost provided it as his swerving, dipping shot from distance was tipped acrobatically wide by Hasell.
Steve Bateman replaced Jordan and Hayes with Martin and Buchanan in an attempt to freshen things up, but a lack of service ensured they were kept fairly quiet as Hemel kept it tight in midfield.
The match looked certain to end goalless until Paul Edgeworth tripped Hemel striker Bernard from behind in the 78th minute, and Lewis Hilliard stepped up to convert the resulting penalty.
Slough felt they should have had a penalty as Graeme Edwards seemed to be hauled down by Danny May from a corner, but he was denied.
Edwards was then replaced by forward Mo Sharif as Slough pressed for an equaliser. Hemel looked content to settle for the 1-0 win, but after Steve Sinclair picked up the pieces from Murphy’s long free kick, the winger got to the byline and dug out a superb cross which Nathan Bowden-Haase headed powerfully past Hasell to spark jubilant celebrations and secure Slough a second bite of the cherry on Tuesday at Holloways Park.
Slough Town Line Up
- 1 Jamie Jackson
- 2 Simon Sweeney
- 3 Danny Murphy
- 4 Rob Kean
- 5 Nathan Bowden-Haase
- 6 Graeme Edwards
- 7 Steve Sinclair
- 8 Tyron Sealey
- 9 Danny Jordan
- 10 Thomas Hayes
- 11 Paul Edgeworth
Hemel Hempstead Town Line up
Hasell, May, Soloman, Yeboah, Matthew McEntegart (c), Gilbert, Kamara (Peagram), Webb, Bernard (Doyle), Hilliard, Akers (Youngs). Subs not used: Kersey, Higgins, Williams, Mike McEntegart