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Hendon suffered their usual second defeat of the season against Tonbridge Angels at Vale Farm on Tuesday evening, continuing their miserable record against the club. It must be said, however, that the 3-0 scoreline was not only very cruel on the Greens, it in no way reflected the closeness of the game and the good fortune that went in favour of the Kent club.
There were a few changes to the starting line-up from the team which had been beaten by Wealdstone at the weekend, Greg Ngoyi and Craig Vargas replacing Belal Aite-Ouakrim and James Burgess, respectively. On the bench for the first time was striker Lewis Putman, a youngster from Oxhey Jets.
The first half was a very even affair, with neither goalkeeper unduly overworked, and both defences in the main comfortably dealing with attacking threats. There were penalty appeals at both ends, the first of which was a challenge on Frannie Collin, after 19 minutes. It was waved aside by the referee
Five minutes later, Tonbridge goalkeeper Lee Worgan lost control of the ball but, as he tried to regather it, he fell into the legs of the sniffing Aaron Morgan. If a defender had made a similar challenge outside the penalty area, no one would have batted an eyelid at the award of a free-kick. Inside the box, however, and committed by the goalkeeper, it was a different matter - and there was also the issue of it being a last-man foul requiring a red card too.
The closest Hendon came to breaking the deadlock was a through ball which Morgan attempted to flick past Worgan but the goalkeeper made a fine save with his feet. An offside flag, however, resulted in a Tonbridge free-kick, so a goal would not have counted.
For 30 minutes of the second half, it was a really good contest, with Hendon distinctly unlucky not to get at least one goal. In the 55th minute, a clever through ball from Jamie Busby released Morgan, who had beaten the offside trap.
With Scott Kinch coming across to cover the danger, Morgan cut inside and struck an early shot which beat Worgan. He looked on aghast as last swerve took the ball against the outside of the far post and it bounced away for a goal kick.
Three minutes later, Hendon forced a corner on the right side. Scott Cousins took it and found the head of the late-arriving Casey Maclaren. Once more Worgan was beaten, but this time Jake Beecroft, right on the goalline, effected a clearance, though he used his hand to do so. There was little in the away of appeal from the Hendon players, but the handball was confirmed by a couple of Tonbridge players, relieved not only to have avoided the concession of a penalty, but also grateful to have their full complement of players on the pitch.
As has so often been the case in recent weeks, moments after nearly scoring, Hendon conceded. Chris Piper was the architect but Hendon manager Gary McCann felt that James Reading should have been able to reach the ball as it was knocked towards the Hendon goalline, ten yards from the near post.
When the ball came across the penalty area, Vargas attempted to reach it before Collin, but he failed and the two players collided. They lay on the ground, close to the goalline requiring treatment, but the ball was in the net and Tonbridge had an undeserved lead.
The Angels' confidence blossomed with the goal and they controlled the next five or so minutes. But Hendon battled back well and the game was definitely back in the balance, with neither team creating a clear opening.
Putman came on for his debut in the 66th minute, replacing Vargas. It was an attacking move and the width he provided stretched the Tonbridge defence but, in the main, they coped adequately with the danger.
Midway through the second half, however, Hendon were again denied by the goalframe. Jamie Busby delivered a teasing set-piece from the left and Maclaren again rose highest to win the header. Although Danny Walder was almost against the far post, there was probably just enough of a gap for the ball to go between the defender and the post - except, the ball didn't miss the post and it was then hurriedly cleared.
The killer blow came 15 minutes from time. Eddie Munnelly tussled for the ball with Carl Rook and it was an even contest between the two players. As often happens in these battles, both players went down â€“ both or neither equally guilty or not of foul play. Two former referees, very close to the incident, felt that there was nothing in the challenge by either player.
The referee, however, decided otherwise and penalised the Hendon man. It was such a minor contact that he didn't even speak to Munnelly, let alone issue a caution. Rook picked himself up and took responsibility for the spot-kick.
Had Reading stood his ground in the middle of the goal, the only danger to him would have been of decapitation. Unfortunately for Hendon, Reading dived and the ball flew into the roof of the net.
Sixty seconds later, Tonbridge had their third goal. Piper sprinted past the tiring Rakatahr Hudson and delivered a clever low cross. Ade Olorunda timed his run well and got in front of James Parker before guiding a slick side-foot just inside the far post.
The third goal ended the match as a contest and Hendon had to resort to damage limitation tactics. Burgess and Bradley Ambrose came on for Hudson and Dave Diedhiou, but neither could find a way past the now confident Angels defence.
"We didn't deserve to get beat 3-0," said a disappointed McCann. "I thought we played well, much more like what we are capable of, and it was at times very pleasing on the eye. We didn't get any luck in either penalty area, especially Casey Maclaren who could have scored twice."