Chesmain stunner sparks survival jubilation
By Ciaran Morrison
Noah Chesmain scored a late equaliser meaning Hungerford Town retained their national league south status
Hungerford made hard work of it but a 94th minute stunner from Noah Chesmain retained Hungerford Town's national league south status. Only a point was needed before kick off and that's what was delivered despite an average display from the hosts against a side already relegated. Thurrock nearly fell behind three minutes in when a short corner from Cameron Hargreaves caught them napping. Marcus Johnson-Schuster collected the pass and strode into the box forcing Jack Giddens into an early save. Giddens spilled the ball but to his relief collected it on the goal line. Despite the promising start the visitors started to gain a foothold in proceedings and a shot from Ricky Hayles made Michael Luyambula dive low to his right for his first save of the afternoon. The atmosphere had begun to dry up as news of Truro City scoring reached Berkshire. Then Bulpit Lane turned to silence as Thurrock scored the opening goal. Shaun Batt from around 20 yards fired a dipping strike underneath Luyambula and the crossbar. That should've been the wake up call but the snooze alarm was still on as Hungerford never woke up. Charlie Ten-Grotenhuis tried to force the issue putting a strong foot in to win the ball back high up the pitch releasing fellow midfielder Alfy Whittingham. In space Whittingham came close but couldn't test Giddens. Instead the hosts should've been two behind on the stroke of half time. A corner to the back stick was nodded back across goal to Batt. Seemingly certain to score Luyambula denied him with an excellent reflex save. The half time whistle then went and Ian Herring had a big half time team talk to rally his troops.
The Crusaders were instantly livelier after the break and Danilo Orsi-Dadomo showed neat footwork to gain a sight of goal however his tame shot didn't trouble the goalkeeper. Herring made a double change to find a route back into the match with striker Conor Lynch and winger Darren Foxley on for Whittingham and Ten-Grotenhuis. Meanwhile, John Coventry only had one substitute at his disposal and used it early with striker Sam Higgins coming on for goal scorer Batt. With no more substitutes a reshuffle was required when defender Jon Nzengo was shown a straight red card. Constant pressure was now being provided on the Rocks backline with Lynch nearly breaking their resistance twice. He couldn't take the two excellent chances presented to him placing one shot wide and dragging another one past the post. With time running out Slough Town had turned the game on its head against Truro to lead 3-1. The Hungerford faithful sprung into life because of that news and the players responded with a dramatic late goal. Chesmain brought the ball forward and decided to have a go from long range. The finish was exquisite and flew past the despairing dive of Giddens. Emotional scenes broke out at the Bulpit with safety secured. The 485 fans celebrated with the players after the final whistle as Hungerford defied the odds once again to stay up.