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Hendon's imaginative decision to hire the Barnet FC all-weather 3G training pitch at The Hive when their Ryman League Premier Division fixture against Sutton United at Vale Farm looked likely to be postponed paid dividends when they took on Hayes & Yeading on Saturday morning.
The Blue Square Bet Premier Division side paid Hendon the ultimate respect, treating the match as seriously as the Greens by putting out an almost full-strength team. And they proved a bit too strong for Hendon winning 4-1, a result that was entirely deserved, even if the margin of victory was somewhat flattering.
It was a well-contested game and both teams were very sensible on a surface that although somewhat slippery was still significantly better than any natural grass pitch would have been. Hendon started much the better and seemed to adapt to the pitch more quickly than Hayes & Yeading.
After eight minutes, the Greens almost took the lead when, following an attack down the right, the ball was played into the penalty area. Lubomir Guentchev lost his marker and knocked the ball past Niki Lee-Bulmer, but the ball struck the outside of the post and bounced away to safety.
A long clearance from James Reading, eight minutes later, did give Hendon the lead. The Hayes & Yeading defence was static as Guentchev ran onto the ball and he drove the ball past the advancing Lee-Bulmer.
This seemed to rouse Hayes & Yeading into action. Two players on loan from NPower League 1 clubs, Romanian Adrian Patulea (from Leyton Orient) and Graeme Montgomery (Dagenham & Redbridge), began to dominate and they caused the Hendon defence some problems.
Patulea had just struck a post with a shot when he scored the equaliser after 21 minutes. He timed his run onto a pass from Jake Hyde perfectly and deftly flicked the ball past James Reading.
The goal of the game came five minutes later. A pass back to Reading was struck a little to hard and high for the goalkeeper to be able to clear easily and his attempt went only about 20 yards outside the penalty area, far enough away for the Hendon defence to be able to close down the advancing Montgomery.
They, however, were slow to react and Montgomery, allowed to go forward 15 yards, then struck a superb shot past Reading just inside the far post.
A couple of minutes later, Aaron Morgan, in his first match since suffering a leg injury at Chelmsford City in the FA Cup, limped off, his thigh again giving him problems. He was replaced by one of two trialists used by Hendon.
At half-time, Hendon made two more changes, Glenn Garner and Jonathan Coke replacing Michael Peacock and Eddie Munnelly, respectively, but it was not a happy return to action for Garner. He collided with Montogomerie and both players had to be taken off injured. The second trialist took over from Garner, while Berkley Laurencin replaced Reading in the Hendon goal. Ahmed Deen - formerly of Barnet and a full Sierra Leone international - made his entrance in place of Montgomery.
By this time, not only had Brian Haule and Danny Dyer come on for Casey Maclaren and Guentchev, but Hayes & Yeading had brought on Andy Yiadom, Adam Bygrave and Danny Wishart - back with his host club after his loan spell at Hendon had ended - for Elliot Buchanan, Hyde and Tom Cadmore.
Chances for both teams were at a premium, but it was Hayes & Yeading who looked the more likely to add to their tally. Both Reading and Laurencin had to be smartly off their line as through balls released Hayes forwards and Patulea was guilty of greed when firing wide with better-placed teammates screaming for a pass.
But Patulea's single-mindedness paid dividends for him with 12 minutes to go. There were three defenders between him and the goal when he collected possession 30 yards from goal. A mazy run later, there was only Laurencin left to beat and Patulea's shot, from a narrow angle, went just inside the far post.
The last Hayes & Yeading substitute was Phil Appiah, who came on for Peter Holmes, while Hendon's final change saw Dave Reading replace Craig Vargas. It left only James Parker, Jamie Busby, Lee O'Leary and Scott Cousins as Greens players who played the full 90 minutes.
After 83 minutes, Yiadom scored with a shot from the edge of the penalty area. His strike was not the most powerful, but its placement was perfect, the ball going inches inside the left post with Laurencin just unable to reach it.
"It was a good exercise for us," said Hendon manager Gary McCann, "and it was a tough game for us in many occasions. I could have taken a friendly against a number of clubs from a lower level, but I wanted to play a team from above us so that it would be a better test.
"We were far from disgraced against Hayes & Yeading and although they clearly deserved to win the game, I thought a 4-1 scoreline rather flattered them. They made it very difficult for us, but there were a number of occasions when I think we could have done much better."