Hawks boss Lee Bradbury praised his side’s patience as they battled to a 2-0 Vanarama Conference South win against Hemel Hempstead Town.
The Westleigh Park outfit looked as if they were going to have to settle for a share of the spoils against the division’s new boys as they struggled to break the deadlock.
But two goals in the final six minutes from Scott Donnelly and substitute Shamir Mullings changed the complexion of the game as the Hawks secured their second win in the space of four days.
‘Sometimes you have just got to be patient – teams are going to come here and make it hard for us to play, and that’s exactly what Hemel Hempstead did,’ said Bradbury.
‘You can’t always open teams up in the opening 15 minutes, and all credit to the players for sticking to their game.
‘They didn’t allow themselves to get frustrated, they continued to pass the ball around until we finally made the breakthrough.
‘The last few games have shown that we have got the depth to bring players on who can change games. Our substitutes were involved in both our goals.’
The Tudors started on the front foot, with James Brighton stepping in from the left to drill a shot past the near post, while twice James Potton got into good positions, before delivering dangerous low crosses into the Hawks penalty area.
Donnelly forced the first save of the game from Laurie Walker in the visitors’ goal on 13 minutes, but the Hawks had a huge let-off two minutes later when former player Dennis Oli was played through.
The big striker’s shot beat keeper Ryan Young but bounced back out off the inside of the post.
That stung the home side into action and Walker produced good diving saves to deny Nic Ciardini and Josh Huggins.
However, Brian Dutton put the Hawks in trouble with a poor pass out of defence, only for the hosts to be rescued by an offside flag.
As the interval approached, the Hawks forced three corners in quick succession but narrowly failed to make them count.
There was little change in the pattern of the game at the start of the second half, with both teams cancelling each other out.
On 54 minutes it took an acrobatic point-blank save from Young to keep out a Ben Mackey header.
The home side needed to raise the tempo of their game and on 65 minutes Bradbury made his first change.
JJ Hooper replaced Bradley Bubb who had made little impact up front.
The game had become a scrappy affair, with the Hawks struggling to break down the visiting defence.
Ben Swallow was sent on and the substitute proved the key as the locals made the breakthrough six minutes from time.
The Welsh winger burst down the right, leaving defenders in his wake, and his low cross was turned in by Donnelly.
Within a minute, fellow substitute Mullings slid the ball home from a Hooper ball across the six-yard box to seal the win for Bradbury’s men, who now sit sixth in the table.
Hawks: Young, Strugnell, Cummings, Stock, Dutton, Harris,
Ciardini, Donnelly, Bubb, Connell, Huggins. Subs: Hooper, Blanchett, Swallow, Mullings, Woodford
Hemel Hempstead: Walker, Asafu-Adjaye, Brighton, Parkes, Allen, Johnson, Talbot, Thorne, Oli, Mackey, Potton. Subs: Connolly, Hawkins, Daly, Diarra, May