|Competition:||Isthmian League Premier Division|
|Date:||Saturday 01 April 2017|
Hendon suffered a gut-wrenching loss to Tonbridge Angels at Silver Jubilee Park on Saturday, the visitors scoring a controversial winner in the final minutes of normal time.
The Greens made two changes from the team which had beaten Needham Market and AFC Sudbury. Keagan Cole was on duty for the Middlesex Under-18s in the FA County Youth Cup final against Cornwall, while Marcel Barrington had been away on international duty for Guyana in midweek; into the team came Dave Diedhiou and Reis Stanislaus.
Tonbridge, on the back of a month which saw their playoff hopes take a dip, made a bright start, forcing two corners in the opening 90 seconds. Neither caused the Hendon defence much in the way of problems.
When Hendon forced a corner, Matt Ball's set-piece was headed wide of the far post. The Greens' next corner, however, proved altogether more fruitful.
The ball came in and Reis Stanislaus dispossessed Nathan Elder as it bobbled around just inside the penalty area. Stanislaus looked to work an opening as Mitchell Nelson came across to assist Elder.
Between them, the two Angels were left with dirty faces as Stanislaus was brought down. The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot, a decision neither Tonbridge player questioned.
Ball took responsibility for the spot kick and his accuracy meant that even if Jonathan Henly had guessed correctly, he would not have been able to reach it.
Tonbridge's reaction was positive with wide men Nick Wheeler and Vas Karagiannis - signed on loan from Maidstone United two days earlier - asking serious questions of James Hammond and Sam Murphy, respectively. The two Hendon full-backs had pretty much all of the answers, with Diedhiou and James Harper adding cover when necessary.
In the 19th minute, Karagiannis got the better of Murphy and cut in from the right side. He had both Elder and Alex Akrofi well-placed, but instead fired at goal, aiming for just inside the near post.
Although Tom Lovelock had taken one step away from the near post, he made a superb save pushing the ball away. From the corner, a Tonbridge player went down, and as some team-mates and fans behind the goal shouted for a penalty, Sonny Miles had a clear sight of goal, but shot into the side-netting.
A succession of free-kicks outside both teams' penalty areas gave Ball and Karaggianis to show off their talents, but neither was able to get their efforts on target.
It wasn't just the wide men of Tonbridge who caused problems because Khale Da Costa and Stanislaus gave Jack Parter and Liam Smith difficult afternoons. Smith struggled to deal with the pace of the Hendon man and this meant he rarely was able to support Karagiannis.
Seven minutes before half-time, excellent work from Da Costa set up a chance for Ball to double the Hendon lead. Unfortunately, the shot was not struck with great power and Henly was able to make a sprawling save.
The second half had an exciting start with both teams going close in the opening 90 seconds. First, Diedhiou made one of his trademark runs into the penalty area and when the ball came to him, he could not beat Henly with his shot.
Akrofi, assisted by Elder, for once, got the better of Josh McLeod-Urquhart and Arthur Lee and was able to shoot goalwards. Lovelock was equal to the effort, so it remained 1-0.
Midway through the half, Tonbridge made their first change, replacing Akrofi with Andre McCollin. Within a minute, the Angels were level.
Wheeler was given space to attack thanks to a pass from Damien Scannell and was able to get around Hammond. His low ball into the danger area was turned into the net by Elder.
A minute later, Luke Blewden took over from Luke Allen, giving a much stronger, if less mobile, presence to the Angels midfield.
Hendon should have retaken the lead when Kezie Ibe, whose hold-up play drove Miles and Nelson to distraction - and yellow cards - set up Stanislaus. Instead of going for placement, Stanislaus opted for power and sent the ball fizzing just over the crossbar. It was a great chance and his reaction to the miss suggested he knew it.
McCollin found himself with a shooting chance in the 75th minute, but he was denied by a brilliant save from Lovelock. It kept Hendon in the game, but was the start of spell of domination for the Angels.
With 13 minutes to go, Luke Tingey and Barrington replaced Diedhiou and Stanislaus as Hendon tried to get back into the game and search for a winner. Two minutes later, Blewden nearly scored when his effort was parried by Lovelock, the ball hit a post and bounced back into the arms of the grateful goalkeeper.
Six minutes later, Elder was substituted by Dan Thompson and, once again, the change brought rapid reward for Tonbridge. Wheeler sent in a low cross and, after a bit of scramble, McCollin sent the ball goalwards.
Lovelock dived full length in a bid to keep the rolling ball from crossing the line, but, according to the assistant referee, unsuccessfully. It was a desperately tight decision, and a photograph taken by an Angels fan - albeit not in direct line - was certainly inconclusive.
The reaction of Lovelock was of incandescent rage and he was probably fortunate not to receive a card. It did, however, mean the referee discussed the decision with his assistant before confirming the goal.
Fans behind the goal Tonbridge were attacking were certainly unsure if all of the ball had crossed the whole of the line and members of the Angels bench - admittedly a considerable distance from the incident - were not convinced the decision was the right one.
One member of the bench said that he had not been sure the goal decision was correct and his doubts were strengthened by Lovelock's reaction. That said, he then admitted he would have taken a winning goal under any circumstances.
Before play resumed, Harper was sacrificed for Elliott Charles, increasing Hendon's attacking options. And Charles and Ibe then set up Da Costa for the chance to rescue a point four minutes into additional time.
The wide man's shot was low and on target. It didnât have the power to beat Henly, though the goalkeeper did fumble the ball. Before a Hendon player could react Miles fell on top of his goalkeeper, forming a rugby-style ruck, albeit had it been the 15-a-side game, he would have been penalised for being offside.
That was the last meaningful action of the game and it meant that the Greens will need to win at least two of their final four matches - and probably draw at least one other - to have a chance of pulling out of the relegation zone.
|11||Khale Da Costa|
|12||Elliott Charles||for 6 , 87|
|15||Marcel Barrington||for 10 , 78|
|17||Luke Tingey||for 7 , 78|
|12||Andre McCollin||for 10 , 66|
|15||Luke Blewden||for 8 , 68|
|16||Dan Thompson||for 9 , 83|