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Hendon returned from a bitterly cold afternoon in Kent unable to stop the rot after suffering their seventh straight defeat in all competitions on Saturday to slip closer to the danger zone.
Following the midweek defeat in the Middlesex Senior Cup to Northwood, manager Gary McCann rang the changes once again. Joe Wright returned in goal, Hassan Sulaiman came in at right-back whilst Oliver Sprague was fit to return at left-back. Further forward, Omar Vassell and Andre Da Costa took the wide midfield berths as Sam Murphy moved inside to join Russell Short in midfield, whilst up front QPR youngster Ben Pattie, signed on Friday on a youth loan, made his debut alongside Kezie Ibe.
With the Angels right in the play-off mix under the stewardship of former Hendon midfielder Steve McKimm, there was an air of confidence around their number as the game kicked off with the bitingly cold gusty wind firmly behind them in the first half.
In the first twenty minutes or so, they failed to make particularly good use of any perceived advantage with a continual number of overhit long balls towards Nathan Elder bouncing out of play for throw-ins and goal-kicks. Hendon, meanwhile, although looking relatively solid, were unable to build any kind of attack of their own and had to be content with trying to limit Tonbridge's chances.
As the midway point of the first half approached, the home side seemed to realise that they needed to shorten their game if they were to get any success at all before half-time. They did so, with Dan Parkinson becoming more influential in both a defensive and attacking manner as time wore on. It was the tall number 4 that brought the first save out of Joe Wright, and it was a good one as a low effort from the edge of the box was pushed away by the goalkeeper's strong palms as he plunged low to his left.
Boldened by this effort, the home side began to prod and probe at the Hendon back-line which has proven so brittle so often this season. Tormentor-in-chief would prove to be their number 11, Nick Wheeler, who displayed a mastery down the left-wing which would have had Jeremy Corbyn drooling. Having already turned Sulaiman inside out once and seen his cross headed over by Elder, he did the same again just past the half-hour mark and delivered a delicious ball to the far post that saw Parkinson beat Elder to the header, which he sent back across Wright into the far corner to give the hosts the lead.
Within two minutes, Tonbridge should probably have been two goals to the good, instead they found themselves back on level terms. Another lovely delivery into the penalty area from the left - this time from Jack Parter - was met by the unchallenged head of Parkinson again, this time his header bounced a yard wide when he should probably have hit the target.
Joe Wright launched the goal-kick into the wind towards half-way where Ben Pattie showed good strength and awareness to take the ball down and turn it in behind the two Tonbridge centre-halves. Kezie Ibe found himself clear of the chasing Laurence Ball - there was a good argument that he was half a yard offside - and as he approached the orange kitted Tony diBernardo's goal, he skipped wide, looked to have possibly taken it too far but with a neatly measured finish, passed the ball into the gaping net. It was Ibe's first league goal of the season, and greeted with plenty of joy from himself and team-mates alike.
The remaining ten minutes of the half was largely one way traffic with Tonbridge aiming to regain the advantage before the break, but with Hendon remaining relatively resolute. However, three minutes before the interval, that man Wheeler once again turned Sulaiman this way and that before delivering yet another sumptuous ball to the far post. It was met by a Tonbridge man, was blocked and squirmed loose where this time Nathan Elder won the race to poke the ball into the empty net.
A goal down, but with the wind behind them in the second period, Hendon were far from out of the contest. Morgan replaced the dizzied Sulaiman at the break and took his place on the left wing, with Vassell dropping back to full-back and Da Costa playing in front of him. Within two minutes of the restart, the move had very nearly paid dividends.
Morgan received the ball on the left wing, knocked the ball beyond James Folkes and sent in a cross every bit as good as those from Wheeler in the first period. The ball skimmed off a Hendon head towards the far post where it was met powerfully on the full by Da Costa. Di Bernardo reacted superbly to push the ball away, without his intervention it would have arrowed into the roof of the net.
Hendon dominated possession for the next ten minutes, probing themselves yet unable to fashion another clear shot at goal. Pattie was a little unlucky when another cross from the left bounced up sharply just in front of him at the far post and bounced wide off his chest.
As it looked as though the storm was being weathered by the home side, they began to look more confident on the break once again. The busy Luke Blewden went close with a swerving volley that didn't swerve quite enough but must have shaved the paint off of the outside of Joe Wright's right hand post on its way into the advertising hoardings behind the goal.
That was the final action from Blewden, and he was replaced by Tommy Whitnell. It took the Tonbridge replacement less than 90 seconds to make his mark as he emphatically netted the third goal that made any Hendon comeback unlikely. Once again though, the goal owed plenty to Nick Wheeler's skill and, more importantly, quality of end product.
Pouncing on a poor clearance and control in the Hendon right-back area, Wheeler this time cut in from the left onto his right foot and unleashed a powerful strike that Wright managed to beat out. Once again blue shirted players were queueing up to react to the loose ball like hungry pigs let loose at an all you can eat buffet and Whitnell's finish high into the net was exquisite.
Hendon continued to have the bulk of possession, but the home side still looked most likely to add to their lead on the counter attack. Pattie had a shot from distance comfortably saved by di Bernardo whilst Wright acrobatically turned away a David Fitzpatrick pile-driver.
As the game entered the closing stages there was still time for both sides to hit the woodwork. Firstly, Tonbridge's left-back Jack Parter precisely thudded the ball off the base of Wright's right hand post after some lovely build-up and in stoppage time, Hendon substitute Finbarr Robins curled a lovely free kick over the wall but was aghast to see the ball glance off the crossbar on its way over.
In the end, a greater quality of delivery and execution in the final third was the main difference between the two sides. Tonbridge moved third in the division whilst Hendon will be hoping for some much needed respite on Tuesday evening when they host Cray Valley Paper Mills in the London Senior Cup at Silver Jubilee Park.