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Hendon avenged their opening defeat at the hands of Tooting & Mitcham United by inflicting a 4-1 loss on the injury-hit Terrors and picking up their first win of 2011. There is no question that Hendon deserved to win the game, but they were made to fight hard in the second half and the final winning margin was a little flattering.
There were a number of changes to the team from the one which had lost narrowly and undeservedly at Tonbridge Angels on Tuesday night. Berkley Laurencin, Casey Maclaren and Glenn Garner coming in for James Reading, James Burgess and Belal-Aite-Ouakrim.
Tooting suffered a blow in the warm-up as skipper and former Hendon favourite Rob Haworth picked up an injury and he had to pull out of the match. It left the Terrors with only three men on the bench â€“ admittedly all they could use, but giving the management team fewer options.
It took barely a minute for Hendon to get their first chance. Garner received a short pass from Scott Cousins and needed a couple of touches to get the ball under control. With his back to goal, he was nonetheless able to spin and get off a shot which Jamie Butler saved with his legs and the goalkeeper was grateful no green shirt could react quickest to the loose ball.
In the ninth minute, a late challenge on Jamie Busby left the Hendon man in need of treatment. Whilst the challenge was late, it was not intentional or dangerous. A couple of minutes later, Daniel Sintim was shown a yellow card when he pushed a Tooting attacker over on the half-way line to avoid the visiting player having a run towards goal.
Casey Maclaren had the ball in the Tooting net after 17 minutes but it was correctly ruled out for offside. The powerful running of Garner and Aaron Morgan was regularly asking questions of the Tototing defence and although there were always correct answers, the defending was not the most convincing.
Gradually, Tooting started to get a toe-hold on the game and when they applied pressure on the Hendon goal, they had two loud penalty appeals turned down in the space of minute. Both were for handball, the first when the ball appeared to strike the upper arm of Michael Peacock as he jumped with Lino Gonsalves.
The second was far more hopeful as Eddie Munnelly was sliding in to block a shot and the ball struck him without the full-back knowing anything about it.
Having gained confidence from a spell in attack, Tooting's defence switched off and they were made to pay in the 28th minute. A long diagonal ball from Cousins picked out Guentchev, who was being tracked by Jay Lovett.
The defender was not quick enough, however, and Guentchev celebrated his 150th Hendon appearance with a goal as he slipped the ball just inside the far post.
A through ball from Busby almost created a second goal, a couple of minutes later. Garner, Aaron Goode and Butler collided with a loud thud right on the edge of the penalty area, but the ball broke Tootingâ€™s way.
Four minutes before half-time, Hendon's dominance received further reward. Busby played the ball into the penalty area and both O'Leary and Guentchev got behind the Tooting defence. It was Guentchev who got his head to the ball and he directed it into almost the identical part of the goal as his first effort.
Tooting lost Tyrone Sealey nine minutes into the second half and he was replaced by Reece Hall. The Terrors had already put the Hendon defence under far more concerted pressure in those nine minutes than they had achieved in the first 45.
Unfortunately for them, their finishing lacked the same clinical nature that Hendon had displayed in the first half. The best chance fell to Jason Henry, who had almost the whole goal to aim at in the 68th minute - Laurencin anticipated the shot prematurely and was diving out of the way - but Henry fired into the side-netting.
Two minutes later, Guentchev nearly had hat-trick as a looping header almost dipped under the crossbar. Butler, back-tracking furiously having come off his line for the right wing cross, was able to tip the ball over the bar at the expense of a corner.
Danny Dyer had already replaced the tiring Garner when Brian Haule took over from the leaden-legged Morgan in the 73rd minute. Tooting had also brought on.Luke Wanadio for Gonsalves when Dyer was introduced.
Within a minute of Hendon's second change, their lead was halved. A clever passing move down the inside left channel opened up the Greens' defence and when the ball came to HALL, he drilled a superb shot past Laurencin. It was no more than the Terrors deserved and Hendon fans feared that all the good work of the first half was going to count for nought.
Instead, the Tooting goal seemed to serve as a wake-up call for Hendon. The midfield regained its control and the defence also looked more solid. And, despite the goal, Tooting didn't seem to gain any confidence from having got back into the game.
With nine minutes of normal time remaining, Hendon made the game safe. Eddie Munnelly broke up a Tooting counter-attack on the half-way line, looked up and saw nothing but open space in front of him.
The full-back took the ball towards the penalty area, still without a single challenge, looked up and saw an unmarked Haule on the edge of the box. The pass to him invited a finish, but Haule miscontrolled the ball and it allowed Butler to sprint off his line and block it.
The ball rebounded towards Munnelly, who steadied himself before firmly side-footing the ball all along the ground beyond the outstretched leg of Michael Noone, who was covering on the goalline. It was Munnelly's first goal for the club.
Before play could resume, Kevin Maclaren replaced Guentchev, while Tooting made the final change a couple of minutes later, veteran campaigner Geoff Pitcher coming on Jamie Byatt, the latter making his first start after missing an extended period of time with an injury.
Six minutes later, Hendon added a fourth goal. Butler came out for a corner, but could not get much of a fist on it as he tried to punch it clear under pressure from both Hendon and Tooting players. The ball fell to the feet of O'Leary, who cleverly lifted it high into the roof of the net, just inside the angle of post and crossbar.
"I am pleased with result," said manager Gary McCann, "and glad to get our season back on track.
"We started well, and dictated and bossed the first half, deservedly leading by two goals at the break. But I was not happy with our second half performance, at least the first half hour, because we became sloppy and allowed them back into the game.
"In fact, it took their goal to wake us up and get us going."