|Competition:||Middlesex Senior Cup|
|Date:||Wednesday 19 October 2016|
Hendon progressed to the 2nd round of the Middlesex Senior Cup and a home tie with defending champions Northwood following a distinctly fortunate and unconvincing win over former landlords Wembley at Silver Jubilee Park on Wednesday night.
Gary McCann chose to shuffle his pack and give valuable minutes to a number of fringe players; Mayowa Balogun, Luke Tingey, Sam Murphy, Keagan Cole, Kezie Ibe, Aaron Morgan and Finbarr Robins were the half dozen changes to the starting eleven that had begun at Boreham Wood at the weekend - Dale Binns, Arthur Lee, Spencer McCall, Casey Maclaren, Niko Muir, Karl Oliyide and Andre DaCosta the men dropping out. McCall, Maclaren and Muir were named alongside Brendan Norris and Charlie Kuehn as substitutes.
With Wembley flying high in the Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division and on a hot streak of form, it was imperative that Hendon got off to a bright start. Just as the game entered its second minute, a low corner into the penalty area from Murphy was only cleared as far as Cole on the edge of the penalty area. Showing quick feet to beat his man and work some space the 17 year old then unleashed a powerful strike that rocketed past Craig Creeth in the Lions goal and into the roof of the net. It was the teenager's first senior competitive goal for the club.
The Lions were undaunted by the early concession of a goal and quickly settled into their stride passing the ball crisply, accurately and pressing keenly when out of possession. Hendon, failed to stamp their authority on their lower ranked opponents and were forced into many sloppy passes or found players continually caught in possession trying to do too much.
Alex Witham had the visitor's first effort on goal, a super free kick from just shy of 30 yards out that was headed for the top corner of the net before Berkley Laurencin at full stretch produced an equally stunning save to turn the ball over the top for a corner. Buoyed by this opportunity, Wembley pressed and had a number of efforts on target, but also straight at Laurencin as they dominated their more illustrious opponents. Another effort, this time from Charlie McKee forced Laurencin into another smart save - this time low to his left - as Wembley continued to search for the equaliser.
As the half wore on, with Kevin Maclaren's influence in midfield growing, the Greens began to weather the storm and get themselves onto the front foot. Cole came agonisingly close to a second goal, Creeth producing a splendid tip over of his own from the midfielder's free header, whilst Maclaren had a low shot also well saved low down from the edge of the penalty area.
In spite of these two openings for the Greens, no-one could begrudge Wembley their leveller as it arrived three minutes before half time.
A long ball forward was not cut out by Tingey, and McKee found himself in acres of space clear on Laurencin. With all the time in the world to pick his spot, the Wembley centre forward duly did so slipping the ball expertly beyond the exposed goalkeeper.
After the break, Hendon's sluggishness continued and they could easily have conceded twice within the first five minutes of the half. Tony Salako and Adam Humphries, Wembley's two full-backs both hit the side netting at Laurencin's near post. These misses were to prove a mere stay of execution.
In the 53rd minute, the Greens fell behind and once again, it was part defensive calamity and part super centre forward work. Laurencin came out to meet a long ball forward and appeared to be in two minds as to where to launch the ball. Choosing neither option, McKee nipped in and gained possession. He still had an awful lot to do as he entered the penalty area, checking back and turning 270 degrees before arcing a sumptuously judged chip over the two defenders desperately trying to cover the goal and into the net.
Any Hendon threat in the first twenty-five minutes of the second half was sporadic, at best. Aaron Morgan dragged a shot wide and a gorgeously delivered free kick from Murphy that was just begging to be touched home at the far post by Tingey just evaded the centre half. More often than not, Hendon's attacks petered out as Ibe found himself isolated trying to hold the ball up or the Greens fell foul of Wembley's excellently drilled offside trap.
Midway through the half McCann made a triple substitution with Ibe, Morgan and Robins withdrawn in favour of Spencer McCall, Niko Muir and Casey Maclaren - the latter making his 300th Hendon appearance.
Muir and Maclaren immediately brought a purpose and strength previously missing from the Hendon front line and although the delivery into them was slow in improving, gradually over the next quarter of an hour things did improve. Murphy, who had a good evening in a wide left role, continued to test the Wembley back line with his deliveries into the box both from dead ball and in open play, he also missed the target on a couple of occasions and forced another good stop from Creeth.
With seven minutes remaining, Hendon thought they had restored parity. This time it was Creeth that was caught dithering on the ball and Casey Maclaren did superbly to nick the ball off the goalkeeper and send it goalwards. There ensued a three way chase towards goal, with Creeth always just about favourite to pounce on the ball before Maclaren and Muir could administer the final touch and as he did so, Maclaren's desperate lunge sent goalkeeper and ball over the goal line. With the assistant flagging, it was adjudged that Creeth had got two hands on the ball and been in control of it when Maclaren challenged and the goal was ruled out.
Galvanised at last, the Greens began to lay siege on the Wembley goal in an effort to force an equaliser. It came with two minutes remaining when Salako failed to deal with a long throw from Tingey, scuffing his clearance into the path of Murphy. His low driven ball into the six yard box was gleefully slammed home from about three yard by Muir much to the relief of the Hendon faithful.
Four minutes of added time couldn't separate the sides and so it was straight to a penalty shoot out.
Alex Witham and Murphy were both successful before Laurencin produced two saves - the second quite brilliant from Gustavo Mota, Zaied Sabti was the first visitor denied. Keagan Cole put the Greens 2-1 up in between the two Wembley failures. Luke Tingey's penalty rebounded back into the field of play - off the crossbar of the Gary McCann stand before Adam Humphries made it 2-2. Casey Maclaren and Joe Wright were both successful leaving Niko Muir with the chance to finish things for the Greens. He did so with aplomb and so sent the relieved Greens through.
It was tough on the visitors who had been the better side for large periods of the game and deserved better than to go out on penalties. For the Greens, focus now switches back to league action with considerable improvement required ahead of two vital trips to Sussex in the next week.
|12||Niko Muir||for 9 , 67|
|15||Casey Maclaren||for 11 , 67|
|16||Spencer McCall||for 10 , 67|