|Competition:||Isthmian League Premier Division|
|Date:||Saturday 19 November 2016|
Hendon returned to Victory Road, Leiston, just three weeks after a salutary 5-0 FA Trophy beating, but this Ryman League Premier Division visited ended with an altogether happier outcome, a 3-2 win against a team which might have gone back to the top of the table if results had gone their way.
Three new signings were among the five players who came into the Greens' starting line-up from the Northwood game: goalkeeper Darren Behcet, from Thurrock, and dual registration defenders Jamie Smith (with Sutton United) and Brad Hewitt (Slough Town) were joined by Arthur Lee and Niko Muir. Those who dropped out were Billy Collings, Luke Tingey, Omar Vassell, Sam Murphy and Kezie Ibe (though Murphy and Tingey came off the bench and Ibe was unused).
The rain over the previous few days had made the pitch very heavy and the Greens were glad that there had not been any more precipitation, especially that which was predicted to later in the day. Much more of the wet stuff might have put the game in jeopardy.
That might be the reason that little of note happened in the opening minutes, until a cross from Leiston left-back Seb Dunbar whistled across the six-yard box. The ball went just in front of the stretching Christy Finch, who could not reach it for the touch to knock it goalwards.
In the 14th minute, Hendon had their first chance and took it in spectacular style. Karl Oliyide headed a cross against the Leiston bar and, for once, the rebound favoured the Greens as the ball fell to Ollie Spargue, who smashed a volley into the top corner.
Leiston probably should have equalised almost straight from the restart. Finch cut the ball back to Matt Blake, but the striker, who had found himself in space, fired his shot wide of the target.
For the next 25 minutes, two teams rather cancelled each other out, Hendon playing neat football, without over-committing to attack and defending stoutly. Leiston's reaction was to attempt to unsettle the Greens with more direct play, but defenders Smith, Lee, Hewitt and Sprague, and midfielders Leo Donnellan and Casey Maclaren, in front of them, formed a formidable barrier protecting Behcet.
Two minutes before half-time, the Blues got themselves back into the game. Joe Francis's cross found the head of Matt Blake, whose header looped over Behcet, hit a post and struck a Hendon defender before the ball rolled agonisingly over the line.
Things got worse for the Greens after a fast start to the second half. There was a goalmouth scramble in the Hendon penalty area with a number of efforts being blocked, until the ball fell to Jack Ainsley, whose shot flew into the top corner.
In recent times, this might have been a signal for Hendon heads to drop. Not this time, however, and, six minutes after going behind, the Greens were back on level terms.
The goal came courtesy of an error from Ollie Brown, who failed to deal with a cross from Keagan Cole and succeeded in sending the ball to Muir a few yards out. He was not going to waste the opportunity and scored his tenth goal of the season.
The game reverted to the style of much of the first half, with chances at both ends at a premium. Behcet did make a good save from Gareth Heath, after he had played a one-two with Joe Francis, and struck a good shot.
With a quarter of an hour to go, Hendon made their first two changes, Murphy replacing Cole and Finbarr Robins taking over from Oliyide. This gave the Greens width on both sides, Robins and Jerome Federico applying pressure to the tiring Leiston back-line.
This pressure paid off, with two minutes of normal time remaining, and in an unlikely way. Donnellan fired in a cross that was probably on target and required a save from Jacob Marsden. The goalkeeper made a hash of the save and as it was trickling towards the goal, Muir applied the final touch.
The game was far from over, however, as in addition to the two minutes, the referee added a further five for stoppages. The Greens made their final substitution with Tingey coming on for Donnellan as an extra defender.
Although Leiston went into an all-out attack, the Greens held on for a vital victory. These vital three points lifted Hendon three places up the table, to 19th, two spots above the relegation zone.
|14||Leon Ottley-Gooch||for 11 , 70|
|16||Regan Pelling||for 10 , 83|
|12||Luke Tingey||for 7 , 88|
|14||Sam Murphy||for 8 , 75|
|16||Finbarr Robins||for 10 , 75|