|Competition:||Isthmian League Premier Division|
|Date:||Saturday 10 September 2016|
Hendon's unbeaten run reached five matches as they picked up their second Ryman League Premier Division victory of the season and inflicted a harsh defeat on the basement-dwelling Metropolitan Police.
The Greens kept the same starting 11 for a third straight game, but there were changes to the bench. Oliver Sprague and Berkley Laurencin were both named as substitutes, alongside Sam Murphy, Dave Diedhiou and Keagan Cole, the goalkeeper and the last-named being the two not to see action.
A caution count of ten yellow cards - the Police collecting six of them - suggests it was a fractious or overly physical match, but it was certainly not either - at least between the teams. One decision, after just four minutes, ensured that there was running hostility between the officials and their hosts.
The decision was to award Hendon a penalty and it certainly seemed to be a dubious one at best. A diagonal ball from Karl Oliyide was deflected by a defender and rolled slowly towards Police goalkeeper Nathan Baxter.
Realising there was still a half-chance, Finbarr Robins ran towards the ball, but Baxter beat him to it by, though his clearance was unorthodox to say the least. He dived full length to punch the ball away, inches above the turf, after which there was contact with Robins, the Hendon player going over his arm.
The referee, almost 20 yards away, in the âDâ of the penalty area, had no hesitation about pointing to the spot. Robins stepped up to take the penalty. Baxter dived one way, the ball went the other and Hendon were given an early lead.
Mention must be made of the conditions, because they were far from ideal. Heavy rain for a couple hours around lunchtime had made the pitch very slow, the grass appearing to be particularly lush but it had been reduced to a persistent drizzle by kick-off.
Nonetheless, there were some parts of the pitch where water was kicked up when the ball was struck. If the rain had continued in its earlier, heavy mode throughout the afternoon, there must have been some doubt about the game being completed.
That being said, there was little excuse for both teamsâ poor execution of set pieces. Two Police free-kicks, from the normally dangerous Ty Smith went wide of the target, while the Blues and Greens never made any of their corners count, the one which almost worked was met by Olli Robinson, but he did not jump high enough to be able to direct the ball on target.
In fact, the only efforts on target came from Hendon, and there were three more of them. Kezie Ibe got behind the defence, but his header lacked the power or direction to trouble Baxter.
The goalkeeper did, however, produce an excellent save to keep out a curled shot from Spencer McCall. Ibe then, at full stretch, couldn't get enough purchase on the ball as he tried to profit from defensive dithering to lob the ball over Baxter.
Three minutes into the second half, Mayo fouled former Hendon loanee Jerome Federico, and the Greens were punished as Ty Smith's free-kick was headed, unchallenged, into the net by Rob Bartley. His chance was certainly made easier by Luke Tingey, his marker, being on the ground - it was not clear whether the defender slipped, tripped or was pushed.
Parity lasted less than 10 minutes. Hendon moved forward down the right side before the move moved into the middle of midfield, where Ibe found space. Niko Muir lost his marker and controlled Ibe's well-weighted pass before firing a left-foot shot into a huge gap left by Norris at the near post.
Before play could resume, Sprague replaced Balogun and the Police soon made their first change, sending on the vastly experienced Richard Pacquette for Jordan Johnson. At last the Blues actually had an out-and-out striker on the pitch.
Brendan Norris produced a superb save after 61 minutes when tipped aside a deflected shot from Federico, and the goalkeeper made a spectacular punch as another ball from the right swerved towards the goal.
The Police made loud appeals for a penalty when Charlie Collins went down, but the referee was unimpressed.
Hendon and the Blues made their remaining changes, with Diedhiou taking over from Robins and Murphy replacing Oliyide. Another former Hendon loanee, Ryan Gondoh came on for the Police, in place of Collins, this coming a couple of minutes after Orlando Smith had been withdrawn in favour of another striker, the teenaged Ethan Chislett.
The final 15 minutes were quite frantic. Norris made a brave save at the feet of Chislett as he ran onto a through ball from Bartley. The passer, striker and goalkeeper all required treatment as the ball went out for a throw-in.
Baxter made another spectacular save to deny Murphy, while both Pacquette and Ty Smith had good openings, but failed to find the target from close range. Norris also made another good save as the Police ramped up the pressure.
The Hendon defence, however, remained just about strong enough and the three points were welcomed with much relief after almost five additional minutes.
|15||Ethan Chislett||for 11 , 74|
|16||Richard Pacquette||for 10 , 62|
|17||Ryan Gondho||for 9 , 78|
|12||Sam Murphy||for 10 , 74|
|15||Dave Diedhiou||for 7 , 67|
|17||Oliver Sprague||for 3 , 61|