Palmer strikes but Ritchie rues missed chances

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O llie Palmer’s last-gasp strike rescued a 1-1 draw for Hawks at home to Chelmsford City.

The Westleigh Park outfit had struggled in front of goal throughout their Blue Square Bet South season opener.

But three minutes into stoppage-time, Palmer delivered the quality required with an excellent piece of finishing.

It was no more than the hosts deserved, particularly after dominating the opening 45 minutes.

But ex-Hawk Jamie Slabber made them pay for spurning chances, netting for the Essex visitors two minutes into the second period.

The goal stunned Stuart Ritchie’s side.

And it took a terrific save from debut-making keeper Clark Masters to prevent them falling further behind.

Masters’ good work was rewarded when Palmer had the final say.

Manager Stuart Ritchie was relieved to avoid defeat in his opening game in charge.

But he was adamant his side should have won.

‘I am not happy with a draw because I felt we should have won it,’ said Ritchie.

‘Up until they scored I thought we dominated the first half and created a lot of chances.

‘Chelmsford created very little, if anything.

‘Our finishing though lacked that little bit of quality when we needed it.

‘It just didn’t happen for us in front of goal.

‘If we had taken our chances we could have been at least two goals up at half-time and then it is a different game.’

The opening 20 minutes on a scorching hot afternoon proved, not surprisingly, a tentative affair.

After that it was the Hawks who dominated and should have been ahead at the interval.

Chief culprit was debutant striker Ryan Moss, who wasted two clear-cut opportunities

Chelmsford struck at the start of the second half, as Slabber knocked the ball in from two yards.

It came after the Hawks had failed to defend a far post free-kick.

‘It was a poor goal to concede from our point of view coming from a set-piece,’ said boss Ritchie.

‘The goal threw us a little bit and for 10 minutes we started to chase the game which we didn’t have to do.

‘We knew we’d get chances again if we kept our shape but we didn’t do that for a spell.

‘That was a bit unprofessional on our part but slowly we ground our way back into it.

‘And finally we got our just rewards.’

Palmer brilliantly took Chris Arthur’s forward ball down on his chest, turned inside his defender and drilled home a low shot.

HAWKS: Masters 7; Newton 7 (Taggart 88mins), Arthur 8, Hutchinson 7, Page 7, Harris 7, Ramsey 6, Bailey 6, Moss 5 (Kabba 56mins, Jones 75mins), Palmer 7, Nanetti 6