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Hendon reached the semi-final of the Middlesex Senior Cup after winning an eventful and controversial last-eight tie against Hillingdon Borough at Claremont Road on Tuesday night. The Greens will face Hayes in around a month, also at Claremont Road, for the right to face Wingate & Finchley or Northwood in the Final.
With Davis Haule cup-tied, Rakatahr Hudson continued in midfield, where he was joined by James Burgess, in for Lee O'Leary, while Brian Haule was also on the bench to give Ross Pickett a start.
Hillingdon started much the better and it was little surprise when they took the lead after 17 minutes. Blaise O'Brien's pace discomforted the Hendon defence and Sam Byfield set up Danny Tilbury, who shot low into the bottom corner.
Former Hendon man Byfield was a constant thorn in the Hendon side, not only with his astute passing and running in midfield, but also with his deliveries of set-pieces. O'Brien and Tilbury, however, couldn't take advantage and Hendon were able to reach the interval trailing by just a single goal.
Things went from bad to worse for Hendon in the opening 90 seconds of the second half. O'Brien again ran at the Hendon defence, this time shadowed by Marc Leach. O'Brien went down just outside the penalty area and the referee immediately awarded a free-kick and showed Leach his second yellow card of the match and thus a red, too.
It was a very harsh decision because it looked as if Leach and O'Brien's legs got tangled as they chased the ball. There is no doubt that contact between the two players caused O'Brien to go down, but the way he went to ground and the position of Leach suggested contact was incidental.
Nevertheless, Hendon survived the free-kick and set about getting back into the game. James Burgess dropped back into the four-man defence as Hendon reshuffled without resorting to use of the substitutes. It took just five minutes for them to achieve their target and it came in spectacular fashion. Dean Green latched onto a loose ball just outside the Hillingdon penalty area and struck a magnificent drive that crashed off the inside of the post on its way into the net.
Parity lasted less than ten minutes and Hillingdon's second goal was more than a match for Green's. A ball delivered from the right wing was cleared by the Hendon defence to apparent safety almost 30 yards from goal. It wasn't very safe, because Byfield was waiting and his first-time drive absolutely flew into the top corner, giving Richard Wilmot no chance.
Almost immediately, Belal Aiteouakrim was withdrawn in favour of Brian Haule and, three minutes later, O'Leary took over from Pickett. The double change altered the game as Hendon scored three times in five minutes to clinch the tie.
The Greens were awarded a free-kick 25 yards from goal. O'Leary and Busby lined up to take it, except O'Leary suddenly ran into the penalty area. Busby found Haule at the corner of the six-yard box with his cross and although the striker could have attempted to score with his header, he decided to head the ball across the penalty area, right into the path of the unmarked O'Leary, who nodded the ball past Ben Harris.
Three minutes later, Hendon took the lead for the first time, a superb move ending with a low shot from Busby, who timed his run into the penalty area perfectly to reach a pass from Haule.
Suddenly it was Hillingdon who were chasing the game and they were torn apart again within two minutes. Hendon passed the ball out of defence into midfield. Three more passes created an opening for Green, whose strike didn't have the same power as his first goal, but the placement was equally good and Harris, apparently slow to go down to attempt a save, didn't get close to it.
A double change for Borough stemmed the flow of the game against them, but they had less than 15 minutes to turn it around. The ten men of Hendon were able to hang on, but not without alarms as Wilmot made two fine saves and another effort rebounded into play after thudding off a post. Had Hillingdon scored with any of those efforts, it would have created a frantic and uncomfortable finale for Hendon.
"The two changes made all the difference," said a happy Gary McCann afterwards. "We were very poor in the first half and it was almost as if the sending off woke us up."