|Date:||Saturday 01 October 2016|
Hendon produced another excellent performance in seeing off the challenge of AFC Rushden & Diamonds in the third round qualifying of the Emirates FA Cup at Silver Jubilee Park on Saturday afternoon. After the 3-0 victory, the Greens are now just 90 minutes from a place in the first round proper when League 1 and League 2 teams enter the competition.
Hendon showed two changes from the team beaten at Canvey Island in midweek, Kevin Maclaren returning to fitness and Alfie Young coming back from a week on trial at a Football League club. Dropping out of the 11 were Luke Tingey and Dave Diedhiou, both of whom were among the seven substitutes, though neither were used.
After a week of turmoil on and off the pitch, Saturday's result brought smiles to all Hendon faces - in stark contrast to seven days earlier.
In the early going it was Rushden who set the pace, creating three chances before Hendon had one. A shot from Nabil Shariff went wide, as did a powerful free-kick from Liam Dolman. Tom Lorraine put an effort over the crossbar.
When the Greens finally launched an attack of note, they showed their teeth. Spencer McCall and Andre Da Costa were involved, as was Niko Muir, before the ball fell to Karl Oliyide, whose shot beat Matt Finlay all ends up, but struck the crossbar.
Berkley Laurencin was forced into action, making a comfortable save from Lorraine. This seemed to wake up Hendon, who gradually began to take control.
Chris Seeby and Ollie Sprague started to make dangerous forays down the flanks, but the real source of danger was Da Costa, who gave Aiden Bradshaw a torrid 45 minutes. The full-back's discomfort was exacerbated by a collision, which left him with a bloody nose.
Hendon thought they had taken the lead in the 29th minute when Casey Maclaren headed the ball into the net. He was following up after a shot from Oliyide had been pushed aside by Finlay. Unfortunately for him, the referee's assistant raised his flag for offside.
There was no redemption for the Diamonds in the 35th minute, however, as the Greens took the lead. Sprague was the creator with a brilliant run down the left side. He beat both Bradshaw and Robbie Parsons before crossing the ball back from the bye-line.
Sprague crashed into the barrier after laying back the ball and didnât see Casey Maclaren flick on the ball into the path of Oliyide, waiting with intent beyond the far post. The shot from Oliyide was perfectly directed, just inside Finlay's left post.
Sprague's heroics proved to be his final act of the game as he needed treatement and was helped back to the bench. It was clear he could not continue, so Mayo Balogun was sent on as his replacement.
The lead was nearly thrown away in the most careless manner when Young misplaced a pass to release Nic Evangelinos. The wide-man cut inside, but Laurencin was out quickly to diffuse the situation with a block at Evangelinos' feet. From the other flank, two raids by Parsons came to nothing as he tried to go himself and found himself crowded out.
Just as in the first half, it was Rushden who had the better of the early exchanges following the resumption. Their efforts were more dangerous, too, with Evangelinos hitting a post in the 52nd minute and, two minutes later, Laurencin spread himself well to deny Parsons as he bore down on goal.
The Greens were not so profligate and, in the 58th minute, doubled their advantage. A short pass forward picked out Muir, who got a call from McCall.
For some reason, when the ball went to McCall, no defender came to close him down. A step to the left took him past the nearest Diamond, and suddenly a shooting opportunity presented itself to McCall, who needed no second bidding to curl an effort beyond Finlay's vain dive.
From here on in, Rushden rather knew their fate. And adding to their already desperate situation were game-ending injuries to skipper Richard Bunting, Parsons and Dolman.
Already missing half a dozen key players, the replacements, including Chris Wreh, the son of former Arsenal, Southampton and Bishops Stortford striker Christopher Wreh (he bagged a hat-trick against the Greens for the last-named), simply did not have the nous to unlock the home rearguard.
There was an outstanding performance by Kevin Maclaren. A calming influence on midfield, he broke up play with great efficiency and rarely wasted a pass to a team-mate.
Arthur Lee and Young, playing their first game together, formed a solid central partnership, bolstered by Seeby and Balogun alongside them and Kevin Maclaren in front. Although Da Costa was not as dangerous as he had been in the first half, the alarm bells rang every time he touched the ball. His one free-kick opportunity, from 29 yards out, struck the wall and bounced tamely into the arms of Finlay, saving a corner.
Oliyide was replaced by Finbarr Robins for final 20-odd minutes, and his trickery created new and different problems for the tiring Diamonds. They did, however, keep him far enough away from goal to give him a shooting opportunity.
With 11 minutes remaining, the last remaining hope for the Diamonds was extinguished. Leaving gaps at the gap, Hendon ruthlessly exploited them and when the ball came to Muir, he controlled it and shot low past Finlay.
It was Muir's last contribution and Aaron Morgan was given a run out. A strong powerful runner was probably the last thing Rushden wanted to see.
In the final 16 minutes (there were more than five added minutes), the only team looking likely to score was the home team. Three or four attacks seemed to leave the Diamonds' defence outnumbered, but either the defenders made tackles or the final pass was a little inaccurate.
The only thing to dampen Hendon's fans celebrations was a rain shower at the end of the game. Given that the forecast had been for heavy rain showers throughout the afternoon, this light and brief downpour was only a minor inconvenience.
|11||Andre Da Costa|
|14||Mayowa Balogun||for 3 , 38|
|15||Aaron Morgan||for 9 , 81|
|19||Finbarr Robins||for 10 , 71|
|15||Taylor Orosz||for 8 , 60|
|16||Chris Wreh||for 11 , 61|
|18||Jordan Holmes||for 5 , 77|