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Hendon's near two-month wait for a League win ended on Tuesday night as they saw off Walton Casuals 2Ã¢Â€Â“0 at Silver Jubilee Park. The Greens were indebted to debutant Tre Charles - signed from Northwood - and the returning Reece Mitchell, who scored the two goals.
The performance was even more laudable given the long trip to Cornwall just three days earlier and the number of key players who remain missing, a situation exacerbated by fit-again Sam Corcoran being unwell and having to miss the match.
Charles, who replaced Ash Abdollahi, was not the only change to the team which played Truro as Howard Hall came in for Harvie Gardiner and Kraig Noel-McLeod took over from Ed Cook. New signing Josh Luther was named on the bench. Two former Hendon players, Rene Howe and Cheyce Grant - one appearance each last season - were in the Walton line-up.
From the start, Hendon attacked with pace and purpose, putting the Casuals defence under pressure. Most of those defenders were concentrating on Francis Amartey, which meant Connor Calcutt, Mitchell and Charles were given far more space than they should have enjoyed.
Too many fast starts this season have not been turned into tangible rewards, but it was not the case this time. The Greens forced a corner in the fourth minute and it was played short by Lee Chappell, who got the ball back.
His second cross was not cleared and although Noel-McLeod seemed to have a shooting opportunity, CHARLES nipped in front of him and shot past Alex Tokarczyk. Charles' goal is one of the fastest debut goals ever scored by a Hendon player - Brian Haule (with his first touch in senior football) scored 75 seconds into his debut at Hampton & Richmond Borough in September 2002.
The goal gave Hendon a huge boost in confidence and they flooded forward down the flanks and through the middle. Toby Byron, in particular, was given large amounts of time and space and he took full advantage of the lack of tracking back by Dave Fitzpatrick. Twice he found himself in good shooting positions and took the option of drilling shots, though both were narrowly off target.
In the 19th minute, Walton pushed the self-destruct button with more sloppy defending. One attempt to clear the ball downfield sent the ball backwards to Charlie Fox, who then sliced it up in the air and behind him.
Fastest to react was Mitchell, who set off for goal with acres of space in front of him. Tokarczyk tried to make it difficult for MITCHELL, but the striker bent the ball left-footed into the bottom corner.
Amartey then had a couple of half-chances but also failed to hit the target. In the 30th minute, however, he came close to scoring what would have been goal of the season.
He received the ball, a couple steps from both the half-way and right touchlines and set off towards goal. Amartey's pace took him past three defenders, a Cruyff turn beat another couple and he rode a challenge before creating an opening for an 18-yard shot. The ball beat Tokarczyk, but also the crossbar.
Sergio Manesio and Lee Chappell both found themselves with shooting opportunities, but both decided to pass to team-mates. They came to nothing, as did a couple of other good pieces of work from Amartey and Calcutt, but it showed the total domination enjoyed by the Greens.
It didnÃ¢Â€Â™t last and, in the last 10 to 15 minutes of the half, Casuals came back into the game, at least in terms of possession and territory. A couple of long-range shots were tried, but Chris Grace was not called into serious action, making comfortable saves.
James Ewington, who bagged a four-timer against the Greens last year, was a peripheral figure. He, Howe and Rhodell Gordon all mistimed runs and strayed offside, stymied by a defence well-marshalled by Noel-McLeod and Luke Tingey.
Hendon have found to their cost already this season - and profit in the FA Cup - that a two goal half-time lead is not necessarily an insurmountable advantage. The Greens played more defensively and it allowed Walton to force the pace.
For all of this possession, however, Hendon's defence was rarely stretched too much and few attacks even resulted in shots at goal. Grace, although much busier than in the first half, still had little to do.
Grant was introduced at the expense of Ewington for the final half-hour, but the 19-year-old didnÃ¢Â€Â™t offer a great deal more than his more illustrious team-mate. Gordon was the main creative source, but all too often he started from positions of little real danger.
The frames of the goal have not been HendonÃ¢Â€Â™s friends in recent matches - in attack or defence - but, in the 73rd minute, the Greens did get a break. A corner was swung in and veteran central defender Jay Gasson powered a close-range header goalwards.
Grace flung his hand up and did just enough to tip the ball against the underside of the crossbar. The bounce down didnÃ¢Â€Â™t cross the line and Grace was able to pick up the ball before a Walton player could react. It was the closest, by some distance, that Casuals came to getting back in the match.
In the final 10 minutes, plus five of stoppage time, Hendon made their three changes. Luther, Obinna Ogbonna and Cook replaced the two goalscorers and Calcutt. Given the Greens' unfortunate propensity for conceding late goals, there was certainly nervousness amongst the Hendon faithful, but on this night, there was not too much need to worry.
A delighted manager Jimmy Gray was on the clubÃ¢Â€Â™s TV site, saying, "We definitely needed the win. I thought we were really good in the first half, got the ball down well and got a couple of goals, and we could have had a couple more goals, too, with the possession we had.
"There was lots of energy with us. The second half was quite a professional job by the lads. It thought we were full value for today.
"I said beforehand about what was required and if it didnÃ¢Â€Â™t go our way things could have changed.
"I think we got a bit of luck tonight and that was important. We have still got work to do. We are a work in progress, but that is things that we have to work on."