Hendon reached their first London Senior Cup Final for more than 30 years after snatching an undeserved victory against Tooting & Mitcham United at Claremont Road on Tuesday night. The Final, against Waltham Abbey, Staines Town or Fisher Athletic, will be at Tooting's Imperial Fields ground on Tuesday 25th April, giving the Greens something to look forward to in an otherwise much-troubled season.
Saturday's disappointment at East Thurrock led to a number of changes in the starting line-up with Danny Julienne, Ross Pickett, Andy Cook and James Burgess all going to the substitutes bench, from where Danny Murphy, James Parker, Dave Hunt and Jeff Campbell were promoted.
The Greens had the strong wind at their backs in the first half, but didn't really use it to any great effect. Tooting had a debutant goalkeeper in Paul Borg and the misfortune of a difficult journey across town, the result of which were late changes to their starting eleven, but they weren't put under early pressure.
After 22 minutes a right wing-cross picked out Darren Watson in space, but he directed his almost unchallenged header inches wide of the near post with Borg well beaten. At the other end, Paul Scott - a former Hendon player - caused a few problems, but Parker, Mark Cooper and Marc Leach just about dealt with everything the Terrors threw at Hendon.
An injury to Iain Duncan midway through the half meant the Greens had to make an early change, Julienne coming on for the player-coach. It didn't alter the pattern of the game, most of which was played in the middle third.
Only in the last five minutes of the half did Hendon begin to exert strenuous pressure on the Tooting defence. A super piece of skill from Hunt created an opening for himself, but Borg produced a fine save. Then a drive from Campbell arrowed low past Borg and nestled in the outside of the side-netting.
The second half was one-way traffic. Apart from one early cross from Charlie Mapes, almost every ball delivered into the Tooting penalty area - whether it was from Julienne, Campbell, Mapes or Danny Murphy - resulted a comfortable catch for Borg under almost no pressure. The only shot of note was a long-range effort from Blaise O'Brien, but it was always missing the target. A dozen minutes into the half, Pickett replaced Watson, but he didn't look like making a breakthrough.
In fact, he was almost forced back into the more defensive role he has fulfilled in recent weeks, such was the Terrors' domination. But they failed to capitalise on their territorial superiority, rarely even forcing Dave King into noteworthy activity. The one exception was a shot which struck a post.
That should have changed in the final ten minutes. First Julienne was caught too close to an attacker and he pushed him to concede a penalty. Ryan Gray, one of the late-comers, took responsibility for the spot-kick, but King was equal to it, making a low save from an effort that was neither particularly well struck nor placed.
The giant goalkeeper had to be at his very best two minutes later, however, when a simple pass released Jason Pinnock, who had an unchallenged run at goal. King came off his line and made a brilliant save with his feet, diverting the ball past the outside of the post.
Having huffed and puffed, but failed to blow down the Hendon defence, Tooting lost concentration in the final few minutes and paid a harsh penalty. Campbell felt aggrieved, in the 89th minute, when a powerful shot bounced harmlessly wide. He felt it had been blocked by a defender, but the referee would have none of it.
In the second minute of stoppage time, Hendon were awarded a free-kick. Spectators close to the incident - on the right touchline, level with the 18-yard-box - felt it should have gone Tooting's way. Campbell curled in the free-kick and Hunt, who has made a habit of scoring important cup goals for Hendon, lost his marker and flicked an unmarked header just inside the post.
There was time for Tooting to force one more corner, but the Hendon defence remained resolute and, once the ball had been cleared, they could celebrate a cup final appearance.
"I thought it was a good game tonight," said happy manager Gary McCann. "The players worked very hard for it and they deserve some reward for their effort.
"Dave King's penalty save and the one-on-one a couple of minutes later turned the game, but I want to mention Dave Hunt's contribution too. He has been very patient and tonight he got his reward."