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Hendon made it three League wins in a row for the first time since April 2018 as they saw off Gosport Borough on an emotional afternoon at Silver Jubilee Park on Saturday. More than a dozen former team-mates and family members were in attendance to celebrate the life of Greens legend Dermot Drummy, while the Club also recognised the services and support of Chris Rogers, who completed 60 years following the Greens.
A dozen of Dermot's former team-mates, Dave Root, Erskine Smart, Andy O'Brien, Roger Wade, Alan Campbell, Phil Gridelet, Bob Dowie, Paul Shields, Paul Shirt, Duncan Hardy, Mick Kiely and Colin Tate, watched on as the Greens totally dominated the second half, but eventually had to hang on for a thoroughly deserved victory.
To counter the absence of injured Sergio Manesio, Hendon brought in former England C Player of the Year Keiron Forbes and the midfielder not only played the full 90 minutes, but also was outstanding. Coming onto the bench were Kingsley Eshun and Sam Corcoran, and the Greens were delighted they got through the warm-up without losing anyone to injury, having suffered that fate in the two previous matches.
Gosport came into the game boasting the best defence in the division, the only club conceding less than a goal a game and it was clear to see why. Solid out wide, the two centre-backs Ryan Woodford and Sam Roberts kept Joe White quiet for 75 minutes.
It was in midfield where the most intriguing battles took place. Michael Carter rarely takes a backward step, but he had to give second best as Forbes was dominant, doing what he does without flash or fancy: anticipate where the play would go; win the tackle; look up and find a team-mate with a simple pass.
Borough were happy to attack on the counter, but they got no change out of Simeon Olarerin, Lucas Perry, Tom Smith and Eddie Oshodi, with Tommy Brewer and Forbes adding further protection in front of them. It meant that, for more than 80 minutes, Rihards Matrevics was limited to making a single save.
In fact, there was not a single noteworthy attempt at goal for more than 20 minutes. Then, Percy Kiangebeni went on a mazy run down the left side, cut in and fired a shot that crashed against the angle of post and crossbar.
The ball bounced down but didn't cross the goalline before rebounding to White, following up. His effort flashed across the face of goal and was hacked downfield.
This led to an immediate counter-attack and Marley Ridge found himself with a good shooting chance. He struck the effort low, but it was easy for Matrevics to make a sprawling save and, importantly, with Chris Flood sniffing for a rebound, keeping hold of the ball.
Flood then had a chance with a header, but he was off target. Just before the break, it was Hendon's turn to make a rapid counter-attack, but Shaun Lucien was unable to find the target with his shot.
Before the start of the second half, Corcoran replaced Brewer, who had felt his muscles tightening. After the match, Brewer insisted that it was a precautionary substitution.
He was thus a spectator as Hendon totally dominated the first 40 minutes of the half. Two minutes into the period, a rare defensive lapse offered Brooks the chance of a shot, but he fired wide.
In the 55th minute, Forbes brought the ball out of defence and played a pass to Lucien out on the left wing, just inside the Gosport half. He cut inside and as Daniel Strugnell dropped to a more defensive position, Liam Robinson came across to cover.
The midfielder was no match, allowing Lucien yards of space to into which to run. When he got to the edge of the D, a great shooting opportunity beckoned and LUCIEN smashed the 22-yard shot into the top corner.
This goal rattled Gosport and, after 61 minutes, White was brought down on the edge of the box. Lucien, still buzzing from his goal, took the free-kick, but the ball clipped the top of the crossbar.
In the 71st minute, Brooks made way for Andronicos Georgiou and his powerful running immediately further unsettled the visitors' defence. Three minutes later, another rash challenge conceded another free-kick on the edge of their penalty area. O'Flaherty did enough to tip Lucien's shot over the crossbar, but it delayed the inevitable for only a few seconds.
Lucien, who else, took the corner, Smith won the header and was denied his first Hendon goal courtesy of a goalline clearance from Rory Williams. The ball fell close to the feet of WHITE, who turned and struck a shot just inside the post vacated by Williams to make his earlier clearance.
Now it was was White's turn to look for more goals. In the 78th minute, White, put through by Forbes, burst clear of Roberts, took the ball around O'Flaherty. Roberts, however, recovered magnificently and made a stunning goalline block from White's firm sidefoot towards the goal.
A minute later, White became the third Hendon player to be denied by the goalframe. His shot beat O'Flaherty but struck the foot of the post and rebound away to safety.
In the 85th minute, Smith went down with a leg injury and had to be replaced by Joe Felix. Suddenly, Hendon's defence looked less composed and Gosport substitute Matt PATERSON took full toll, reducing the arrears a couple of minutes later.
There were still almost 10 minutes remaining (five of stoppages became almost seven), and Hendon did their best to defend deep inside the Gosport half. Another free-kick on the edge of the box attracted the interest of Lucien and Georgiou, but they elected to keep possession rather than shooting.
Having been in control so long, a third goal would have been nothing less than the Greens deserved. More importantly, however, they didn't concede a second - equalising - goal and the three points took Hendon 10 points clear of the bottom two and up to 16th in the table.
Speaking on the club's TV website, manager Lee Allinson was full of praise for his charges. "For me this was the best win we have had," he said. "If you look at their side and their experience, from us this was very, very good and very strong.
"I don't think we deserved to be hanging on at the end because I thought we should have been out of sight earlier but it was a fantastic performance and we have got to keep going in the right direction.
"We have got 18 players that will run through brick walls for us and we won't let anyone outwork us and that was the case today. It was a battle all game, and it was difficult to create chances.
"I think the scoreline was very flattering - we could have been three of four goals to the good before they scored their late goal."