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After a 19-year gap, Hendon played against a spirited Molesey team in the first part of their defence of the Robert Dyas League Cup. Despite the hosts playing one level below the champions, they gave a very good account of themselves and can feel aggrieved to have ended the game without troubling the scoresheet.
The Moles, who lined up with a young team dotted with more experienced players, contributed to a generally good-spirited game played at high tempo, which entertained both the home support and the reasonable number of travelling Hendon fans.
The Greens, playing in their fetching new dark blue away strip, were without a number of prominent players for the fixture, but those who stepped into the squad did so in an admirable fashion. Tony Taggart lead the charge in the opening salvos, his impressive wing play troubling the Moles' defence on a couple of occasions and his strike the first to trouble the Molesy keeper, his effort being dealt with comfortably.
The opening quarter of the game was an even affair, the home side applying a fair amount of their own pressure, one shot flying just wide with another well saved by the impressive debutant Hendon goalkeeper Melvin Minter. Galvanised by the pressure from the Moles, the visitors stepped up a gear thereafter. A mesmerising run from Oliver Sprague eventually fizzled out, before a header from the returning Leon Smith just eluded Scott Shulton in the six yard box, the home side's defence eventually clearing the threat.
The next incident of note saw Hendon somewhat optimistically launch an appeal for a penalty, waved away by the referee, before the visitors took the decisive advantage. After some approach play was rebuffed by the hitherto impregnable Molesey defence, the ball fell to the effervescent Sam Murphy who launched a screaming half volley into the roof of the net. A harsh observer would suggest that the Moles' keeper perhaps should have done better, but the pace and movement of the ball in the air would have troubled any custodian. A fine finish to put Hendon in the ascendency.
The Greens kept up the pressure with a couple of corners and an effort which was scrambled clear, before the Moles launched a dangerous counter-attack. Minter managed to spread himself well to snuff out a good chance for the Moseley frontline. Hendon were back on the front foot soon after and it was not long before Shulton put Smith through with a perfectly weighted slide-rule pass. The forward made no mistake, curving the ball past the Moles' keeper and into the corner of the net. Shulton nearly increased the lead to three, his shot going just wide, before his evening took a turn to the worse.
Thinking he had been tripped for a penalty, which again was waved away by the referee, he launched into a tirade against the official, therefore picking up his second booking for dissent in as many games.
The start of the second half saw the only real ill temper in the game, a modest disagreement developing after a Smith attack down the left wing had been brought to a halt. Good order was soon restored, followed by the introduction of Maz Bettache for the hard-working Taggart. Hendon had another good chance to increase their lead, Sam Flegg's glancing header from a corner flashing just past the post, just before the second switch for Hendon, Jake Cass coming on for Leon Smith.
Meanwhile, Molesey had not given up on the game. They had what looked a cast iron penalty appeal overlooked by the referee after an attacker was unceremoniously upended in the Hendon penalty area. Charlie Kuehn came on for Oliver Sprague, before Molesey launch a wave of attacks looking to get back into the game. The home side would have deservedly got a goal or two back in the tie in the last fifteen minutes were it not for the heroics of Minter in the Hendon goal, a fantastic diving save from a header being the cream of the crop.
The industrious Aaron Morgan was close to getting a third for the Greens, before a cynical foul brought another of his forays to a halt. The resultant free kick went narrowly wide, an incident which prededed Hendon's second unnecessary booking of the tie: Bettache seeing yellow for failing to retreat for a Molesey free kick.
There was still time for a couple more chances: Molesey blazed a shot over the bar when scoring appeared to have ben easier, while Bettache's late attempt was well saved by the Moles' keeper.
This was an absorbing and enjoyable game to watch. Hendon boss Gary McCann will have taken many positives from the match, perhaps the only chagrin being derived from two more needless bookings.