|Competition:||Isthmian League Premier Division|
|Date:||Saturday 08 April 2017|
Hendon kept their hopes of escaping relegation from the Ryman League Premier Division remain alive after they came from a goal down to beat fellow strugglers Folkestone Invicta 2-1 at Fullicks Stadium on Saturday. It was only the fourth time all season that the Greens had trailed in a League game and come back to win - at Merstham and the two defeats of Leiston were the others.
Keagan Cole was back from representing Middlesex Under-18s - he helped the team to win the FA County Youth Cup - and he took over from Dave Diedhiou, who dropped to the bench in place of Geo Craig.
Both teams knew the value of an early goal in a match of this importance and it was the hosts who had the first opening. In the third minute, new signing Nathan Ferguson - whose career has gone full circle from Grays Athletic, via Burton Albion, Port Vale, Southport and Bromley, since summer 2015 - made a good run from midfield down the right wing.
His low cross begged for someone to get a touch, but it was not until the ball reached Joe Taylor, beyond the far post that an Invicta player managed it. Taylorâs angle was very acute and he could only send the ball back across the face of Tom Lovelockâs goal and away for a goal-kick.
Hendon looked to the creativity of Matt Ball and the speed and guile of Khale Da Costa and Reis Stanislaus to set up Cole and Kezie Ibe, but the Folkestone defence, led by Frankie Chappell repelled the danger. Tim Roberts, in the Invicta goal, had little to do, but neither did Lovelock at the other end.
That said, Hendon were at least willing to try their luck with some shots. They may not have had the accuracy required, but they were a constant reminder to Folkestone that there was danger from many places when Hendon were on the attack.
Eight minutes before the interval, Folkestone took the lead in frustrating circumstances for the Greens defence. Jordan Wright crossed the ball in from the right side and it led a bit of head tennis inside the penalty area after Joe Taylor had made life very difficult for Lovelock, who could not get to the ball.
When the ball came to Michael Everitt he guided it into the path of Ferguson. His shot was low and true, through a crowd of players into the bottom corner.
As the teams trooped off to the dressing rooms, Hendon's position was desperate, but they were unaware that a number of Folkestone players were on the verge of complete exhaustion. The rallying call from the Hendon dressing room was urgent, and the reaction from the players was exemplary.
Josh McLeod-Urquhart and Arthur Lee completely dominated the Folkestone front two, while James Hammond and Sam Murphy were able to get forward and assist Da Costa and Stanislaus, with Da Costa giving Josh Vincent a torrid afternoon. The midfield battle was also clearly won by the Greens with James Harper and Cole controlling affairs.
It was Cole who set up Kezie Ibe with a good chance after 52 minutes. Roberts, however, was equal to the occasion and made a good save.
With the Folkestone midfield struggling desperately, it was a shock to most people when the first player to be replaced was Ferguson, the brightest spark in the Invicta firmament. Miles Cornwell took over from him and he could not spark Folkestone back into the game.
The Greens, however, were still in need of a moment of inspiration to level matters. With 20 minutes to go, Marcel Barrington took over from Harper, a tactical move to increase Hendon's attacking options.
A couple of minutes later, Stanislaus got behind Frankie Chappell and found himself running in from goal, albeit an acute angle. He lifted the ball over the advancing Roberts, but looked on in anguish as it dropped just wide of the target.
In the 74th minute, the Greens got their much-deserved equaliser. Da Costa was the creator, tormenting and beating Vincent again. This time his cross found Ibe and the striker did what he has been doing for many years - converting the chance without fuss.
From here on in, there was likely to be only one winner and they weren't wearing amber and black stripes. Ashley Miller took over from Wright for Folkestone in a vain bid stem the tide, but the move didn't work. Hendon then sent on Diedhiou to strengthen the midfield with goalscorer Ibe being sacrificed and Murphy taking the captain's armband.
Six minutes from the end of normal time, Da Costa raided down the right, played in a low cross and there was Barrington, 10 days after playing for Guyana against Martinique in a full international, to slot the ball into the bottom corner.
Ball had a chance to extend the Hendon lead with a free-kick that missed the target by inches with Roberts well beaten. Both teams had one more change to make, and Folkestone were the first to act, replacing the veteran Everitt with Sam Hasler.
As the game inched towards stoppage time, Stanislaus nearly added a third for Hendon, but he was denied by a brilliant tackle from Invicta captain Liam Friend. Almost immediately, Luke Tingey was sent on to add defensive strength for Hendon, taking over from Stanislaus.
Folkestone had one last chance to salvage something from the game, but Lovelock made a fine save to preserve the Hendon advantage. But a goal at the other end still looked far more likely, and it very nearly arrived when Cole lobbed the ball over Roberts, but it struck the frame of the goal and bounced to safety.
The Greens' fifth win in seven games was celebrated by players, officials and supporters alike. It moves Hendon to within one point of safety with three matches remaining.
|12||Ashley Miller||for 6 , 77|
|14||Sam Hasler||for 7 , 85|
|15||Miles Cornwall||for 8 , 65|
|11||Khale Da Costa|
|14||Dave Diedhiou||for 9 , 82|
|15||Marcel Barrington||for 6 , 70|
|17||Luke Tingey||for 10 , 88|