|Date:||Tuesday 26 July 2016|
Hendon came up just a little short in their latest preseason friendly, with Vanarama National League South Margate the visitors.
Although it was only 14 months and nine days since the teams had met in the Ryman League Premier Division Playoff Final only six of the 34 players in the squads at Earlsmead were in the 39 named at Silver Jubilee Park.
Margate, now under manager Nikki Bull - like Gary McCann a former goalkeeper - avoided relegation on the final day of last season, and have gone about strengthening their with younger, hungrier players. The result was that Gate started really brightly and Hendon were on the back foot for the first 15 or so minutes.
However, when the Greens did launch an attack, they quickly won a corner, but it was dealt with by the Margate defence as it eluded all the green-shirted men in the box. The response was a break to the other end but that chance also went begging.
Dave Diedhiou, Casey Maclaren and Chris Seeby provided a very solid defensive group and it took something very special to beat them and goalkeeper Brendan Norris behind them.
A minute after Diedhiou might have given Hendon a 35th-minute lead - he put his attempt over the crossbar from close range - there didn't seem to be much danger when the ball was launched down the hill and reached Matthew Johnson. He had other ideas, however, and struck a magnificent 25-yard screamer which gave Norris no chance.
Going down the hill in the second half, Hendon looked bright in the opening minutes, but they were undone by the sheer physicality of the Gate. They won a corner on their left side, which was taken by Scott Donnelly.
The delivery was excellent and it invited a blue shirt to meet it. The man to do it was Brett Johnson, who ran into the danger area, leapt higher than anyone else and his powerful header was past Norris before the goalkeeper could react.
Hendon responded immediately with a simple goal. The ball reached Karl Oliyide, just outside the penalty area, where the Margate defence held off by a few metres.
That was all the incentive Oliyide needed. He stepped past two men, avoided a tackle from a third and, despite stumbling, was able to divert the ball past Lewis Ward.
Within a couple of minutes, the Greens had struck the outside of the goal from an acute angle on the right side. After this the teams started making wholesale changes and this rather affected the way the game was played.
The closest Hendon came to an equaliser was a strike from Oliyide which beat Ward, but struck the foot of a post before being clear away from the danger area.
It was certainly not all one-way traffic and Margate created more than a few chances of their own. Berkley Laurencin, who had replaced Norris, did make one good save - just as the starter had done a few minutes before going - and three other stops which were routine.
Despite Hendon's best efforts, the Margate defence remained resilient and they rarely looked like being breached.
Greens boss Gary McCann said, "I felt we kept our shape very well and created a few chances of our own. Apart from the first 15 minutes, I thought we were in the game all the way through.
"I was pleased with the our performance. In fact, it was probably the most pleased I have been so far this preseason. Margate were a very strong, physical team as they showed with their second goal.
"But it was a competitive, evenly contested game. I don't like losing any game, even preseason friendlies, but I wanted to test our team against better opposition than we have played in other seasons. We could have played teams from lower levels and won those games, but not had the tests we have faced so far."
|14||Andre Da Costa|
|18||Khale Da Costa|