|Competition:||Isthmian League Premier Division|
|Date:||Monday 26 December 2016|
Hendon's season of misery took another downturn with a Boxing Day defeat against Harrow Borough at Silver Jubilee Park, the visitors' first victory on 26 December since the 1980s. The game came close to matching last season's 5â5 draw, but this time the Greens failed to take chances to score the match's tenth goal.
The return to the team of Dave Diedhiou was a big plus, tempered by the exits from the club of Jerome Federico and Brad Hewitt. But, such is the state of the squad, three out of the five substitutes were aged 17 or under.
Bad starts have become the norm for Hendon, but this time it was worse than usual. Barely a minute had elapsed when Andre Da Costa miscontrolled the ball on the edge of the penalty area and his attempt to retrieve the situation ended with him tripping full-back Josh Webb.
The ball was two yards outside the box as midfielder Joshua Webb took aim. He curled the ball over the defensive wall and although Andrew McCorkell got both hands to the shot, he could not complete the save.
It took only five minutes for Hendon to get back on level terms. A corner was curled into the penalty area and Diedhiou rose well to power a header into the net. His contribution has been sorely missed in recent weeks, not only for his midfield effort and energy but also, as here, his ability to score important goals.
Parity lasted all of four minutes as the kamikaze defending by Hendon resurfaced. Aaron Tumwa lost possession just outside the penalty area, and Wealdstone's on-loan striker Sahr Kabba was quick to beat him before delivering a cross.
No one was alert to the run of Harry Newman and he was able to get in a free header. It was not quite what Newman intended, but his flicked header looped high into the air and dropped down to kiss the inside of the upright before ending up in the net.
This time the lead the last a minute longer. Reis Stanislaus, who had been denied a penalty in the 14th minute when Michael Peacock mistimed his challenge and barged him in the back, this time was tripped by the former Hendon centre-back as he turned just inside the penalty area.
Sam Murphy, despite his failure against Grays Athletic, took responsibility for the spot kick. Even if Luke Williams had guessed correctly, the chances are he would not have had a chance of keeping out Murphy's drive.
The game was 17 minutes old, there had been four attempts on goal and the score was 2-2. It was football madness, great entertainment, but a level of defending competence that would embarrass low level youth football.
Harrow suffered a blow in the 24th minute when Peacock went down. He has a history of ankle problems and he was soon being helped off, to be replaced by George Nicholas, with David Taylor dropping back to centre-half.
In the 31st minute, Hendon's death-wish defending resurfaced as a throw-in went astray and Newman beat Luke Tingey to get possession. He beat the full-back and the thrower, Murphy, went around the lunge of Quba Gordon and then slid the ball across the six-yard box.
McCorkell, slow to realise the danger, raced to cover the near post and could not deal with the low ball. Francis Babalola, however, had no such problems and he flicked the ball into the net.
Barely a minute had elapsed before Hendon scored the goal of the game. The ball was only half-cleared by the Borough defence and Casey Maclaren raced onto the loose ball and smashed a 25-yard drive that almost lifted the net off its moorings.
Three equalisers in 25 minutes is quite an achievement. The target for Hendon, now, was to avoid conceding again and they managed it too.
Four minutes before half-time, it was the Harrow defence that was, once more, found wanting. Karl Oliyide linked well with Stanislaus who dragged a couple of defenders with him before turning on the edge of the penalty, outside the left upright.
Suddenly, Stanislaus curled a 20-yard drive that flew over Williams and nestled in the far corner. If the goalkeeper had been tall enough, he might have had a chance of making the save, but there was clear daylight between his hand and the ball.
For a second consecutive match, Hendon had been involved in a seven-goal first half. At Needham Market there were no goals after the interval; the wish of all involved with Hendon was that history would repeat itself ...
Barely 90 seconds into the second half Marc Charles-Smith sent Kabba clear. He had only McCorkell to beat but the goalkeeper stuck out a leg and blocked the striker's shot. This was a clear warning that the Hendon defence had to step up its game.
They didn't listen and four minutes after the resumption, Kabba was brought down by a careless challenge inside the penalty area. Hendon players felt that the ball had been played before the man, but in modern football, players cannot leave their feet to make a challenge and be confident they won't be penalised.
Joshua Webb took responsibility for the spot-kick, but although McCorkell dived full-length to his right, the ball was struck too powerfully for him to make a save. It was 4-4 and all the impetus was with Borough.
Harrow continued to press and the Hendon defence struggled not only to deal with the runs of Charles-Smith, Kabba, Babalola and Newman, when they did clear the ball, it normally found a red shirt rather than a green one. Nicholas, twice, Joshua Webb and Newman all had chances to restore the visitors' lead but failed to take them.
Finally, Hendon started to create some openings, but the decisive finish was missing. Murphy curled a free-kick wide of the target, but no player from either team made any real attempt to divert the ball goalwards.
Stanislaus fired over the Harrow crossbar, while Nicholas struck the foot of a Hendon upright as chances to come at both ends. With 20 minutes to go, the risible quality of defending ensured "next goal wins" was no certainty for a considerable period.
Stanislaus, groin tightness, and Tumwa, after-effects of a midweek illness, were taken off midway through the half with Keagan Cole and Merrick James-Lewis replacing them. Without their spearhead, Hendon lost a little bit of their attacking bite. The toothlessness at the other end, however, would soon come back to haunt them.
There were two chances for Hendon to clear the ball from the left-back area in the 73rd minute, but neither was taken. So, when Kabba finished off a Harrow response involving Josh Webb and Newman, Borough had their fourth lead. Their three previous advantages had lasted a cumulative total of 12 minutes, so 17, plus stoppages, was a big ask.
They managed it somehow. Arthur Lee will regret his powerful header was directed too close to the post and went just the wrong side of it and Oliyide will rue giving Williams the chance to make a fine save when given a clear scoring opportunity.
Spencer McCall replaced the tiring Diedhiou for Hendon but he struggled to make any inroads into the Harrow defence. The Greens desperately needed a second experienced out-and-out striker for the vital final few minutes, but there was no one to call upon.
Try as Hendon might, the fourth equaliser and fifth goal just would not come it was the band of Harrow fans who left happy.
|11||Andre Da Costa|
|12||Keagan Cole||for 9 , 67|
|14||Merrick James-Lewis||for 3 , 67|
|15||Spencer McCall||for 8 , 78|
|16||George Nicholas||for 4 , 24|
|17||Kurtis Cumberbatch||for 9 , 85|