The Rebels, already forced into fielding a makeshift back four with Dunn operating at left-back, had little choice but to throw caution to the wind in the second half – but despite dominating territory and possession, could not find a way through Hungerford’s resolute defence.
A downpour minutes before kick-off made for a slick playing surface at Bulpit Road – and just five minutes in, a horrible mistake from Jack Turner gifted the Crusaders the lead. Turner completely misjudged a pass forward, rushing out to catch the ball only to see it bounce high over his head. Veteran striker James Constable was on hand to apply an easy finish as he slid the ball into the empty net.
Slough’s response was positive – Max Worsfold’s effort from the edge of the box was turned around the post by Adam Siviter, and from the resulting corner Sam Togwell launched himself at the ball, but could not get a telling touch.
A quarter of an hour in, a clearance from a Hungerford defender hit the frame of his own goal as the Rebels piled on the pressure with a succession of corner kicks – and four minutes later the hosts survived a massive appeal for handball as Worsfold’s driven cross-shot was deflected wide off the arm of a Hungerford defender.
Slough’s injury woes in this match started with Dunn limping off after coming off worse in a tackle for which Hungerford won the free-kick. Young defender Scott Armsworth came on to make his debut and slotted into an unfamiliar right-back role, with Fraser moving to the left.
From the resulting set piece, Turner then made a fine save – and just a minute later Slough had a let-off as Mike Jones hit the inside of the post, with the ball rebounding across goal and away to safety.
Constable threatened again as his shot was blocked in the goalmouth after miscommunication at the back.
Turner was again required to make a good save before the break as he shovelled away a fierce shot which skipped up off the wet turf, whilst Slough kept plugging away at the other end, with Worsfold seeing a right-footed shot turned over and Matt Lench’s low effort being saved.
Slough’s problems increased further before the half-time whistle though, as Hollis limped off after suffering a heavy tackle. With no more defenders to choose from, Scott Davies replaced him.
Then, Fraser was also forced off with an injury at the break – so with nothing to lose, Ben Harris joined Francis Amartey and Ryan Bird in attack for the second half, making his 50th appearance for the Rebels in the process.
The visitors immediately put pressure on the Hungerford goal. Ben Harris forced Siviter into a good save at his near post, Amartey also tested the keeper with a strike from distance, and Slough forced a succession of corners – they would go on to win 16 in total – but Hungerford stood firm.
Slough enjoyed large spells of possession and pressure in the final third, with Lench and Davies particularly influential, and the hosts rarely threatened Slough’s patched-up defence, but on one such occasion the former Bracknell striker Liam Ferdinand was able to run at goal, but he got his finish all wrong.
Minutes later, a deep cross found Ben Harris at the back post, but the ball was deflected over the bar, and shortly after Bird nodded the ball wide of goal after more pressure.
Hungerford’s chance to double the lead and kill the game off arrived as Kofi Halliday ran clear, but Turner raced out of his goal to clear, hurting his ankle in the process.
Further chances came and went for the Rebels as Ben Harris put a header off target and Amartey was denied by a superb block from Josiah Dunstan, leaving Neil Baker and Jon Underwood frustrated ahead of another tough match at Concord Rangers on Saturday.
Hungerford Town Line up
Adam Siviter, Marcus Johnson-Schuster, Joe Tomlinson, Mike Jones (c), Josiah Dunstan, James Rusby, Louis McGrory, Dan Bailey, James Constable, Liam Ferdinand, Kofi Halliday. Substitutes: Conor Lynch, Zidan Akers, Matt Jones, Matt Berry-Hargreaves, Ali Thorp.