Hendon advanced to the last eight of the London Senior Cup with a magnificent fightback and penalty shoot-out victory over Blue Square South Bromley. On the face of it, a victory in this competition cannot be as important as League points, but the confidence gained from a performance in adversity can only help in the forthcoming battles for Ryman points.
Rakki Hudson, Richard Wilmot and Jamie Busby did not feature in the 16 for this match, while Glenn Garner came in for Lubomir Guentchev, who was named as a substitute. William Viner and Frank Wilson made their senior Hendon starts in place of Wilmot and Hudson, while Dave Diedhiou came in for Busby. For goalkeeper Viner, it was a return to the club where he played from the ages of 12 to 16.
And it was nearly a disastrous reappearance, because Warren McBean contrived to miss a hat-trick of sitters in the opening 11 minutes. The first one, after 12 seconds, came as a result of an error by Wilson, but McBean, with only Viner to beat, failed to hit the target.
His next attempt, following a corner in the second minute, was on target. But from eight yards out, McBean's free header was directed straight at Viner in the middle of the goal. In the 11th minute, good work down the right flank by Loui Fazakerley set up McBean, who was no more than three yards from goal, but he somehow contrived to achieve the not-inconsiderable feat of lifting the ball over the crossbar with room to spare.
Seven minutes later, Brian Haule also missed an opportunity to score. Put through by Charlie Mapes and beating the offside trap, Haule had only the advancing Gareth Williams to beat. He waited for the goalkeeper to commit himself, but Haule lifted the ball over the keeper and inches wide of the left upright. It proved a very costly miss because, 12 seconds later, FAZAKERLEY was given a clear run at goal after a good pass from McBean and he showed McBean and Haule how it should be done by firing confidently past Viner.
Things should have got much worse for Hendon 12 minutes later when a drive from Ashley-Paul Robinson was too hot for Viner to hold and Fazakerley went down under a challenge from Wilson for the loose ball. The referee awarded a penalty but took no action against the Hendon defender. Fazakerley stepped up and although he struck the penalty kick well enough, it lacked much direction and Viner saved with his knees.
At the other end, 25-yard drive from James Burgess was caught by Williams above his head. Gradually, however, Hendon were beginning to enjoy the battle and with Harry Hunt outstanding, a one-goal Bromley lead was probably just about right.
The second half was, for the first twenty minutes, rather tame compared to the first period and the game seemed to have rather died. Then, in the 67th minute, Hunt sent Haule into space, but he was stopped by a brilliant tackle from Jerrome Sobers. In the 73rd minute, Karl Murray forced a good save from Viner while, at the other end, Diedhiou went close with a 20-yard shot.
However, the match seemed to be over as a contest in the 77th minute when Fazakerley again found space in the inside right channel and he drilled a shot past Viner. The ball, however, cannoned off the crossbar and rebounded to the other side of the goal. Waiting there was substitute Ryan HALL, and his instant drive flew inside the near post before the recovering Viner could get across.
Soon after this, Hendon made a double switch, James Bent and Kevin Maclaren coming on for Wilson and Diedhiou - Guentchev had already replaced Garner, who had worked very hard for 66 minutes. It proved an inspired change because, barely four minutes after coming on, BENT fired past Williams after Haule and Hunt had created the opening. Two minutes later a Burgess was blocked by Sobers and the rebound from Charlie Mapes also struck a white shirt.
In the second minute of stoppage time, Hendon got their most deserved equaliser. An attack similar to the one which brought success a few minutes earlier ended with the ball at HUNT's feet and he made no mistake, shooting in at the near post.
The two periods of extra time provided excellent entertainment with both teams having chances to win the tie. Williams and Viner made a couple of good saves each and a few other efforts, notably more from Hendon, went just wide of the target. In the last two minutes a desperate intervention from Sobers denied a goalbound shot from Mapes, and that proved to be the last clear-cut opening of tie.
Penalty shoot-outs are always something of a lottery and this was the eighth in serious competitive matches for Hendon, of which they had won three previously, but none since the 1997 Middlesex Senior Cup Final when current manager Gary McCann missed horribly and his assistant Freddie Hyatt won it most cheekily. This time it took eight rounds to decide it.
Bromley went first and full-backs Adam Everitt and Mark Corneille made no mistake, BENT and Lee O'LEARY doing likewise for Hendon. VINER then saved from Murray, but Mapes had his effort saved by Williams. Fazakerley, who had been denied after 30 minutes, this time took a super kick and made it 3-2, only for HAULE to level matters. Up stepped Hall and Viner made a valiant effort, pushing the ball against a post, but it bounced into the net. HUNT, with probably the best penalty of the shoot-out forced sudden death.
McBean held his nerve and it was up to skipper James BURGESS to keep the tie alive. In his (almost) inimitable style - twin brother Mark uses the same technique - Burgess bent down to put the ball on the spot, facing the other goal, turned and marched to the edge of the centre circle. From there, he turned, sprinted towards the ball and let fly. Williams got his body to the ball but it appeared almost literally to go through him and ended up just over the goalline.
But the drama wasn't over. Moses Swaibu struck the outside of the left post to leave Maclaren with the chance to win it. Williams denied him with a fine block. Now it was Sobers' turn. He missed wide to the right and Marc LEACH, with a magnificent thump, drilled the ball into the corner and Hendon were through.
Mr McCann said, "Apart from the first 10-15 minutes, I thought we more than matched them and we were good value for the win. I felt we were on top in the second half and their goal came on the break. But we showed great spirit in coming back from two goals down."