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Hendon picked up a very welcome three points with a 3-1 win against VCD Athletic, which whilst lifting the Greens two places in the table to 17th, left their visitors still rooted to the foot of the table and searching for their first league win of the campaign.
There were two changes to the Hendon starting line-up from the eleven that had begun against Kingstonian in midweek. With skipper Lee O'Leary departing to the Ks in the aftermath of that game, and Kezie Ibe carrying a knock and dropping to the bench, there were recalls for Andre Da Costa and Leon Smith. On the bench, joining Ibe, were Charlie Kuehn, Melvin Minter, Max McCann and Goldy Capela - a late signing on a dual registration agreement from Dagenham & Redbridge. Mark Kirby took the vacated armband.
Confidence has been an extremely fragile mistress for the Greens so far this season, and in a match where three points was absolutely key, they made the perfect start to settle their nerves. Less than 150 seconds had elapsed when a long ball forward caught two VCD defenders unsure of quite how to deal with things. Leon Smith needed no second invitation to gallop onto the loose ball leaving the blue shirts floundering in his wake and tuck the ball confidently beyond Harry Palmer - a late call up for the Vickers with their named goalkeeper Callum Thomas having broken down during the warm-up.
With the benefit of an early goal behind them, Hendon settled quickly into a rhythm, looking to use the pace of Da Costa, Bettache, Murphy and Morgan behind Smith to bewilder the VCD defence into further concessions. On ten minutes, slick build-up involving Morgan in Smith saw the latter slide the former down the left flank. Morgan pulled the ball back towards the near post where Kirby arrived bang on time to sidefoot the ball less than a yard wide of Palmer's near post.
The pattern for the first half had been well and truly set. VCD relied largely on long balls forward towards the experienced strike pairing of Donovan Simmonds and Paul Vines, but they were kept well in check by Dave Diedhiou and Kirby. Indeed, the only VCD efforts of note in the first period came from dangerous dead ball deliveries from Ashley Proberts and Kojo Awotwi - both headed off target by Simmonds.
At the other end, as the half approached the halfway mark, Andre Da Costa twice forced openings down the left flank with his pacey and direct running. From his first cross, Smith rose at the far post and his downward header was well helped over the top of the bar by Palmer before Bettache had a shot blocked from the second centre.
It was beginning to look as though for all of the possession and openings that were coming Hendon's way, they were going to have to settle for the single goal advantage at the break. Morgan threatened with a run in behind the VCD defence from a long ball forward, but his right footed drive flashed across the face of goal and almost out for a throw-in. However, with five minutes of the period remaining, the second goal arrived much to the relief of most concerned connected with the home side.
From a left wing corner, Sam Murphy's delivery into the heart of the penalty area was begging for someone to touch in home. Sam Flegg, stooping like a garrotted parrot got his head to the ball not much higher than knee height and did really well to direct the ball beyond Palmer.
With the final kick of the first half, Murphy very nearly added a third goal when he unleashed a fizzing low strike from 25 yards that was curling away from the goalkeeper towards the far corner of the net. Palmer did really well to keep his eye on the ball and make a very smart smothering stop.
If the first half had been largely one way traffic in Hendon's favour, then the first half of the second period saw VCD come out with renewed vigour and purpose. Finding their range with their passing and mopping up a large number of loose balls in midfield, they began to press Hendon back - albeit without unduly troubling Kirby, Diedhiou, Sprague or Flegg.
Leon Smith had been sent through by a Bettache header into the penalty area, but the angle was against the Hendon number 9 and Palmer stood up to block the effort with comfort.
Then, on the hour mark, the visitors showed their intentions for the second period when Awotwi, whose influence on proceedings grew as the game progressed, fired a super dipping volley over Wright from the edge of the penalty area and was unfortunate to see the ball rebound off of the face of the crossbar. Former Margate man Richard Avery pounced on the rebound, but his effort was saved by the alert Wright. This, shortly after Joe Bruce had been denied a clear shot at goal by a sprawling green shirted block.
At the other end, Bruce made two quite outstanding interventions to keep his side in the game, both times denying Leon Smith. Aaron Morgan was the architect of both openings with divine balls between the centre halves - firstly Bruce made a brilliant challenge near the penalty spot as Smith looked to pull the trigger and then five minutes later, after Smith had dinked the ball over the advancing Palmer, the former Leatherhead number 5 bust a gut to get back and divert the ball behind for a corner at full stretch, no more than a yard away from his own goal line.
Nerves were set a-jangling with thirteen minutes of the game remaining when Awotwi found himself in a similar situation to that facing Smith three minutes before. Lifting the ball over Wright, it was Awotwi rather than a defender that got onto the loose ball and bundled it home. He was injured in the process of scoring by a covering defender, but was able to continue following treatment as the game restarted without him.
Those nerves were settled just three minutes later by a third Hendon goal that owed much to the enterprise and awareness of substitute Goldy Capela. Picking the ball up deep on the right hand side in his own half, he ran with the ball at pace over the halfway line and released it left. It was worked to Aaron Morgan who beat Marvin Hamilton and got to the by-line just inside the hand side of the penalty area. It looked as though the chance had gone, but Morgan showed real precision in squeezing the ball back towards the penalty spot where Capela, having continued his run, showed real composure to mark his debut with a sidefooted finish beyond Palmer.
With the two goal cushion restored, Hendon were able to see out the final ten minutes of play with a good deal more comfort than they might have done. Wright made a low save from Awotwi before the referee bought a watchable encounter to a conclusion and signalled a very welcome three points for the Greens.