Lloyd Owusu made the starting eleven on his return to his hometown club, replacing the suspended Sean Sonner, just under 14 years after his last appearance in a Slough Town shirt when he played in a 1-1 draw against Kettering Town at Wexham Park. Slough’s other recent signing, Jerome Anderson, took a place on the bench.
Going in to the game, the visitors had the best away record in the league, despite their mid-table position, whilst Slough had the best home record, so perhaps a draw was no surprise – though the visitors left by far the happier of the two sides after snatching a point at the death after Ben Abbey’s goal a minute from time looked to have won the game.
Following recent postponements and with the Holloways Park pitch already in a poor state, a downpour before kickoff was the last thing manager Steve Bateman would have wanted to see, and his side struggled to get into any rhythm early on – though Owusu was almost presented with a gift early on as Hayes goalkeeper Simon Grant lost possession, but recovered to tackle the veteran striker.
Alex Brown was superb in this game for Slough, and showed his worth again by putting in a goal-saving tackle to deny Hayes striker Matt Woods.
Owusu, playing his first game in around three months following injury, showed his class and experience from the outset, and after he struck a shot a couple of feet over from 30 yards, he got his head to a Chris Herron cross but was unable to turn it home.
Soon after, Owusu had an even better chance presented to him by Burnell, but he poked his effort wide via the outside of the post.
Paul Coyne was perhaps fortunate to stay on the pitch after a wild tackle on Ross Ahir, though the midfielder’s tenth yellow card of the season means he will now serve a two game ban.
But the villain of the day from a Slough perspective was Hayes goalkeeper Grant, who simply could not cope with the presence of Alex Brown and Nathan Bowden-Haase at corner kicks, and reacted by going to ground clutching his face, pretending that Brown had struck him. Referee Daniel Leach quite rightly waved away the goalkeeper’s pathetic protests, though stopped short of showing him a yellow card.
Another downpour slowed down the tempo of the game, but Hayes had the best chance before the half time whistle. Warrington beat out a shot from Woods, and Dominic Rhone headed the rebound over and onto the roof of the net.
A glorious chance was spurned by Owusu shortly into the second half. Played in on goal, the striker tried to place the ball past Grant, but the effort was weak and easily saved.
Slough went closer still as a Steve Perkins header was deflected wide, whilst Alex Brown went into the book after he was adjudged to have fouled Grant.
The pressure from Slough continued to build, but the Rebels still could not find a breakthrough, and the game became increasingly bad-tempered and niggly. Slough’s frustrations were clear to see, with virtually every cross and many passes going astray on the bobbly pitch.
Owusu’s game came to an end as Anderson replaced him to make his debut, and the pacy forward showed in glimpses why he will be a useful acquisition for the remainder of the season. He fired an effort high and wide late on, but it was another substitute who made the breakthrough with just a minute left. Ben Abbey pounced to turn home a loose ball after a header from Perkins was blocked, and Slough thought their lead at the top would be maintained.
But a further twist was to come, and in the fourth minute of added on time, Hayes won a penalty, which Rhone converted coolly – just as he had done at Farm Park earlier in the season – to deflate the Rebels fans. It was the only real shot of any note for Warrington to face in the second period. Slough’s frustrations boiled over again, particularly as it later emerged there was no contact made on the Hayes striker.
The game restarted, and Simon Grant was already making his way off the pitch, towel in hand, thinking the game had finished – so Paul Coyne went for goal direct from the kickoff, but unfortunately the ball dropped wide and the goalkeeper was not punished for his error.
Ultimately, the visitors’ game plan of frustrating Slough and holding out for a point had worked for them. Things were to go from bad to worse after the final whistle, as Steve Sinclair was shown a red card for hurling the ball at the referee amongst ill-tempered scenes on the pitch.
AFC Hayes Lineup
Simon Grant, Oliver Duffy, Dominic Rhone, Charlie Defty, Tom Duffy (c), Danny Murphy, Terry Smith, Ross Ahir, Matt Woods, Victor Asombang, Connor Duffy. Subs: Dennis Maharjan, Daniel Lake, Tom Higgins, Tim Williams, Kevin Lema.