By Liam Moakes 24/04 Updated: 24/04 14:20
EVESHAM UNITED earned a valuable point in their battle to beat the Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division drop as they fought out a 2-2 draw with fellow strugglers Hemel Hempstead Town at St George's Lane on Sunday.
Manager Matt Clarke handed a first start in the Robins midfield to former Shrewsbury Town youngster Luke Male and youth team players Josh Bartlam and Oliver Burness were amongst the substitutes.
However, the start did not go to plan as the visitors - who showed some excellent passing and movement throughout the first half which belied their second from bottom position - took a second minute lead when Marquin Smith's corner to the near post was firmly headed in by Keiron Schmidt.
Evesham keeper Dan Platt was then forced to produce smart saves from Rob Howarth and Ross Lafayette to prevent Hemel extending their lead before Schmidt drove wide as the Tudors continued to dominate.
However, the hosts drew level against the run of play two minutes before the break when Ben Pugh drove a strike across Hemel keeper Ross Kitteridge into the far corner of the net.
The equaliser lifted the hosts' spirits and just after the restart Male spurned a glorious chance to put them ahead when he blazed high and wide with only Kitteridge to beat following Pugh's knockdown.
The pressure continued and United skipper Wayne Daniel and substitute Jack Winter forced Kitteridge into saves before Evesham took the lead in the 76th minute when Pugh's throw-in was helped on by Craig Wilding to Henry Eze at the back post who prodded home his second goal in as many games.
However, having worked hard to get themselves into a winning position, Evesham were pegged back just three minutes later when Danny May's cross from the right found its way to Lafayette who fired home from six yards.
Evesham were further rocked when they were reduced to ten men for the final ten minutes as Eze was controversially sent off, but the agility of Platt between the sticks ensured the hosts held on for what could prove to be a precious point.
Evesham, who will be without midfielder Neil MacKenzie for around another fortnight due to a hamstring injury, sit 17th in the table - four points above the bottom four - ahead of tomorrow's visit to Leamington.
Tuesday then brings the return fixture at Hemel Hempstead Town in what is sure to prove another key week in the race for survival.
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