It was a lacklustre performance from United in the first half which saw them 2-0 down but they staged a remarkable comeback in the second period to draw level at 2-2, miss a penalty when 3-2 behind and despite then going 4-2 down scoring again to bring it back to a single goal deficit before Hemel finally put the result beyond any doubt in stoppage time with a fifth goal.
With suspensions in the back line, there was a debut at centre back for David Baker who had signed for the club prior to the start of the season prior to breaking his leg in a pre-season friendly at the Spencer Stadium against Wingate & Finchley.
Hemel soon got to grips with the game and began to dominate proceedings and always looked dangerous in attack with their lively forwards causing problems for the Banbury defence. The home side’s best early chance came just after the quarter of an hour mark when Ben Mackey got ahead of central defender Leon Simpson but the Hemel marksman blasted his shot well over the bar from a narrow angle from around ten yards.
It was no surprise when Hemel went in front on 25 minutes as they had been threatening to score for some time. A corner from the left fell to Ben Mackey and though his shot was blocked on the line by a defender the rebound came out to Shane Blackest who drove the ball home from close range.
Hemel went close to scoring again in the 33rd minute when Dave Pearce was denied in a one-on-one by a good save from Dean Snedker in the Banbury goal.
Banbury’s first decent effort came in the 36th minute when Adeyinka Talabi shot from 25 yards though it was comfortably held by Laurie Walker in the Hemel goal. However, just three minutes later and Hemel were 2-0 up when a corner from the right was headed back across goal from the far post and Lewis Toomey coming in headed home from close in.
The half time score was a fair reflection of the play with Hemel worthy of their 2-0 lead against what was a most lacklustre 45 minutes from United.
United though looked a different side at the start of the second half and gave it a real go, playing positively and some excellent football going forward. Both Kynan Isaac and Northampton Town loanee Claudio Dias were brought on straight away and they made massive contributions to the improved showing with Isaac causing no end of problems for the Hemel defence down the right hand side and Dias making an early impact.
Just two minutes into the second period and Talabi was put through but the Hemel custodian was equal to the United striker’s good effort. Banbury did not have long to wait to pull a goal back though as on 51 minutes Dias was put through from wide on the right and cooly slotted the ball home from eight yards past Walker for his first goal for the club.
In the 57th minute Tanasheh Abrahams crossed from wide on the left into the Hemel penalty area where the ball was well controlled by Talabi who did well to make room for a shot but the ball went inches wide of the far post. Just a minute later though and Banbury were level when a cross from the right by Aaron Morgan went to Dias on the edge of the Hemel penalty area who then side stepped a defender before curling a shot into the top right hand corner of the net.
Whilst Banbury had scored two goals, Hemel still looked very dangerous going forward and in the 65th minute Hemel were back in front when Ben Mackey picked up the ball about eight yards out, took the ball round a defender and then fired the ball home to make it 3-2
Just two minutes later and Banbury had a great chance to be back on level terms when Kynan Isaac was pushed over inside the penalty area wide on the right by Kyle Connolly. Dias stepped up to take the spot-kick but it was well saved by Walker low down to his left.
In the 70th minute Hemel were once more two goals in front when substitute Charlie Mpi netted for Hemel.
United were not prepared to give up though and seven minutes from time reduced the deficit to just a single goal once more when a cross from the right by Luke Cray found Dias at the near post who flicked the ball from a narrow angle over Walker into the top far corner of the net to complete his hat-trick.
Banbury looked for an equaliser in the remainder of the game but were unable to create a clear opportunity. Three minutes into stoppage time and Hemel’s Jordan Parkes took a free-kick on the edge of the Banbury penalty area and his superbly struck shot went over the wall and into the top left hand corner of the net to make the final score 5-3.
This was an excellent fight-back in the second half against the league leaders and was exciting and a delight to watch after such a disappointing first period. Hemel had only conceded three goals at home in the league all season prior to this game but Banbury doubled that tally in the space of 45 second half minutes - if only Banbury had played like they did in the second half for the whole of the 90 minutes!
Hemel Hempstead Town: Laurie Walker, David King, Kyle Connolly (Moussa Diarra 80), Jordan Parkes, Kieran Murphy, Shane Blackett, Daniel Talbot, Luke Allen, Dave Pearce, Ben Mackey (James Folkes 78), Lewis Toomey (Charlie Mpi 65). Subs (not used): David Htton, Ollie Thorne.
Banbury United:Dean Snedker, Luke Cray, Tanasheh Abrahams, Kyal McNulty, Anderson Pinto (Claudio Dias 46), David Baker (John Mbamarah 38), Dominic Lawless (Kynan Isaac 46), Scott Bridges, Leon Simpson, Aaron Morgan, Adeyinka Talabi. Subs(not used): Marvin Martin, Marcus Green.
Updated 23:09 - 26 Dec 2013 by David Shadbolt