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Hendon reached the semi-finals of the Middlesex Senior Cup with a narrow but deserved win over Blue Square Bet South Division Hampton & Richmond Borough at The Beveree on Tuesday night. A solitary goal from Dave Diedhiou - on his return to the team after more than three months out - deep in first-half stoppage time was enough to give the Greens a tie at Staines Town.
After the misery of Saturday's trip to Canvey Island, it was important for Hendon put the memories of that game behind them with a positive performance - albeit facing what was little more than the Beavers' second string (their battle against relegation being more pressing) - and they duly delivered.
There were a number of changes to the line-up, with John Fletcher, Diedhiou, Aaron Morgan and James Burgess coming in for Daniel Sintim, Kevin Maclaren, Greg Ngoyi and Jamie Busby, while on the bench for the first time was Jason Mason, the new signing from Aveley and Bishop's Stortford.
Hampton started the game at a great pace and the eager Beavers had Hendon on the back foot throughout the opening quarter of an hour. They had two good chances to score, the first of which was a 20-yard drive which cannoned off the crossbar after eight minutes. The rebound, however, favoured Hendon as it went far enough away from goal to quell the danger.
Four minutes later, Lawrence Yaku had a good shooting chance, but the normally lethal striker failed to hit the target.
Hendon gradually got into the game and while Belal Aite-Ouakrim looked dangerous, they were normally kept at arms' length by the home defenders. They had far more trouble with the runs from deep by Lubo Guentchev and he was distinctly unlucky to be ruled offside when appearing to run from behind the last defender. He would have had an unimpeded run at goal, but for the flag.
Hendon suffered a blow after 30 minutes, when Fletcher limped off, to be replaced by Mason. This required a reshuffle as Mason is a midfielder, but the pattern of the game didn't change - a contest played almost entirely between the two penalty areas, with neither goalkeeper forced into action.
The only goal came in first-half stoppage time and it was on the back of Hendonâ€™s best move of the half. Half a dozen passes - at pace - ripped apart the Hampton defence and when the ball came into the penalty area Diedhiou just got his toe to the ball before goalkeeper Adam Carpenter and Darrell Ellams couldn't clear the ball off his line.
In the second half, Morgan caused Beavers' back-line quite a few problems, but he seemed unwilling to try his luck with a shot from outside the box, although opportunities to do so presented themselves.
Diedhiou lasted 70 minutes before Kevin Maclaren replaced him. He had put in an excellent shift and done more than his share to decide the tie.
By this time, Hampton had withdrawn their front two, but their replacements got no change out the superb Michael Peacock and the almost-as-good Burgess and Casey Maclaren. As the match progressed, and Hampton tired, both Jonathan Coke and Scott Cousins were able to get forward more. Chances - at either end - remained at a premium, and it looked like the first goal would be the only one.
With five minutes to go, Under-18s player Bradley Ambrose was given a first-team debut (replacing Aite-Ouakrim) and he showed two lovely pieces of skill in his short time on the pitch. The first saw him dance past two defenders, but the shot didn't match his approach play and Carpenter - whose poor kicking from the ground put his team under undue pressure on more than one occasion - made a comfortable save.
The other piece of skill was a deft through ball which released Guentchev, but Tom Nicholson made an excellent intervention.
Happy Hendon manager Gary McCann said, "We played very well in patches. It was very important, after Saturday, to be professional and I think we were.
"I knew it was always going to be very tricky, even though Hampton put out a very young side, and so it proved. I am delighted to have won the match and look forward to the semi-final."