|Competition:||Isthmian League Premier Division|
|Date:||Saturday 25 March 2017|
Hendon came out on top of one the Greens's biggest must-win games for many years. The 4-0 trouncing of AFC Sudbury at their Wardale Williams Stadium not only lifted the Greens clear of the Suds, it meant that if Sudbury are awarded the points from the abandonment at Silver Jubilee Park in January, then they cannot overtake Hendon, though their goal difference will be better.
The Greens had the luxury of not only naming the same starting 11 as had beaten Needham Market a week earlier, but also the same five substitutes were on duty. Sudbury, however, had to replace two key players, the suspended Sam Clarke and Ryan Henshaw.
An early goal would have settled nerves for whichever team got it and it was Sudbury, in the second minute, who were the first to try their luck. Sam Bantick attacked down the right, got behind the Hendon defence and then cut in to create an angle for a shot, one which Tom Lovelock tipped over the bar.
Hendon's first effort of note came in the 11th minute when Matt Ball fired a long-range effort which narrowly missed the target. Even if the play was a bit scrappy, there were chances at both ends and Lovelock produced a magnificent save to keep out a 30-yard lob from Ace Howell.
When Hendon attacked Khale Da Costa jinked his way clear of the defence and then fired a shot which may well have troubled Marcus Garnham in the Sudbury goal, if the ball had not deflected off James Baker for a Greens corner. It did not take much longer, however, for Hendon to make the breakthrough.
A neat pass found Kezie Ibe with only Baker for company. The striker got the better of the defender, ran towards the oncoming Garnham and took the ball past him on the outside. Although the angle was tight, Ibe's accuracy was one hundred percent and Hendon had the lead.
Gaining in confidence from the goal, the Greens took control and, as their confidence ebbed away, Sudbury, began misfiring at every turn. Danny Crow, getting nothing out of Josh McLeod-Urquhart and Arthur Lee, resorted to a desperate long-range effort which Lovelock watched sail harmlessly wide.
It wasn't just the centre of the Hendon defence which was outstanding. Sam Murphy and James Hammond on the flanks and James Harper just in front of the back four, to say nothing of the excellence of Lovelock behind them, have all made Hendon a much harder team to beat.
Just after the half-hour, Ball superbly displayed the potent combination of power, precision and accuracy. Hendon were awarded a free-kick a little more than 10 yards outside the penalty area and Ball's strike gave Garnham no chance as the ball crashed into the back of the net.
Ball might have had a first-half hat-trick. Having shot narrowly wide early on and then scored with that free-kick, he was then clear by an inch-perfect Marcel Barrington pass. Just as he was about to shoot, Adam Tann made a superb block to end the attack.
As the half came to an end, Sudbury created a couple of chances, first to Sam Corcoran, then to Bantick. Blocking both was McLeod-Urquhart, thus ensuring the Greens went into the dressing rooms holding a two-goal lead.
Although Bantick had had two of Sudbury's better openings in the first half, he was one of pair of players replaced at half-time. Rob Eagle replaced him and Joe Marsden took over from Wayne Blackman. And Marsden immediately forced Lovelock into a save from his shot.
After the collapse at Leatherhead two weeks earlier, it was enough to set Hendon nerves jangling. But they were eased less that four minutes into the second half when Barrington set up Keagan Cole and the 17-year-old, on his 50th appearance, netted his eighth goal of the season from close range.
Cole and Ball looked to add to their goal tallies as Sudbury's passing deserted them. The first effort was saved easily by Garnham, while Ball's strike cleared the crossbar.
Hendon's pace down the flanks was becoming too much for Sudbury to handle and Tyler French was yellow-carded for a heavy challenge after 56 minutes. Five minutes later, the hosts knew the game was up.
The defence tried to play a tight line, but Ibe has seen it all before and timed his run forward to perfection. He was once again clear of the defence and, as in the first half, when faced with Garnham in a one-on-one it was Ibe who came out on top and he completed his double.
Before play could resume, Dan Rumens took over from Sam Murphy to strengthen the defence, while Tevan Allen became the last Sudbury replacement, Aiden Austin making way. Four minutes later, Reis Stanislaus took over from Barrington - who is now jetting off to join Guyana for whom he will pick up his fourth international cap, against Martinique in midweek.
Both substitutes made quick impacts. Allen caused a moment of panic in the Hendon box with a teasing cross, but the Greens dealt with it. And, at the other end, Stanislaus forced Garnham into an excellent save.
Sudbury then enjoyed their best spell of the match. Crow smacked a shot against a post and the ball rebounded to safety. Then Marsden, only a few yards out, and the goal gaping, managed to put a free header over the crossbar.
But it was not long before Hendon were back on the front foot and Da Costa forced another fine save from Garnham. Running out of energy, French could not stop another Hendon raid legally and his trip led to the inevitable yellow and red cards.
Da Costa was then substituted with Elliott Charles coming on and it did not take him long to fashion an opening. Garnham was equal to the effort but it was a matter of damage limitation for Sudbury, who have now conceded 17 goals in their last four matches - all defeats - and replied with just a couple.
The Greens meanwhile went through March winning four times in five outings to keep their hopes of safety alive. There is still plenty of work to be done, but the grim desperation felt after Leatherhead has dissipated slightly.
|2||Tyler French||s/o, 78|
|12||Tevan Allen||for 3 , 61|
|14||Joseph Marsden||for 4 , 46|
|15||Robert Eagle||for 7 , 46|
|11||Khale Da Costa|
|12||Elliott Charles||for 11 , 82|
|15||Reis Stanislaus||for 10 , 65|
|16||Daniel Rumens||for 4 , 61|