Hendon’s interest in the FA Cup ended in a brave defeat against National League South full-timers Maidstone United at Silver Jubilee Park on Saturday afternoon. The Greens battled manfully all afternoon against a well-organised team and lost to the best moment of skilful play in the match.
There was only one change to the Hendon starting line-up from the one which had recorded the Greens’ first win of the season on Tuesday night, fit-again Solomon Sambou coming in for Jayden Clarke, who dropped to the bench. Two of the Stones defenders, George Elokobi and Gavin Hoyte, boasted Premier League experience, for Wolves and Arsenal, respectively.
In truth the game, while compelling because it was so close, lacked the harum-scarum excitement of a cup-tie with a possible shock on the cards. Much of this was down to Elokobi and Hoyte, who were calmness personified and they gave little more than scraps for Shaun Lucien, Liam Brooks and Joe White to feed on.
That said, when Hendon were defending, Eddie Oshodi and Toby Byron kept the prolific Scott Rendell very quiet and Joe Ellul barely had a look-in up front. When Maidstone attacked down the flanks, Lucas Perry and Simeon Olarerin easily won their battles.
Maidstone suffered a blow after 18 minutes when Christie Pattinson limped off with a leg injury. His replacement was sparkplug wide man George Porter, a recent signing following a 12-month FA betting suspension.
Two minutes later, Kosovan midfielder Kreshnec Krasniqi spotted Jonathan North a little off his goalline and tried to lob him from 35 yards. The ball, blown by the wind, beat North, but it dropped behind the goal without threatening the crossbar. Saidu Khan was next to try his luck, after 23 and 26 minutes, but he was off target on both occasions.
Hendon forced a corner in the 31st minute which caused consternation in the Stones’ penalty area. The half-cleared ball was lifted back into the danger area by Matt Ball, but the referee spotted a foul by a Greens attacker on Chris Lewington as the goalkeeper came off his line to gather the dropping ball.
Five minutes before half-time, Maidstone had a noteworthy shot on target, but although Sam Carne’s shot had some power, it was close enough for North to save without extending himself.
The Greens’ response was immediate as Olarerin intercepted a pass in the centre circle, burst forward and, when he reached 30 yards from goal, unleashed a powerful drive. Lewington’s dive was for show only as he had no chance of reaching the ball, and he was very grateful it flew inches wide of the angle of post and crossbar. It would have been a spectacular goal.
On the stroke of half-time, Khan tried his luck for a third time, and on this occasion his effort was on target. It was not, however, anything that inconvenienced North, who gathered the ball comfortably.
Nine minutes into the second half, Porter raced into the penalty area, and went crashing to earth, much to North’s annoyance. Whether he had gone into the goalkeeper with a raised leg or it was simulation, the referee had no hesitation in producing a yellow card for the substitute.
A moment of carelessness in midfield nearly cost Hendon dearly as Maidstone broke quickly down the right side. A good low cross from Justin Amaluzor seemed destined for Ellul, only for Ball for atone for his error by making a superb sliding intervention at the expense of a corner.
Midway through the half, a rare error from a Maidstone defender allowed Brooks to run at the defence. He sent the ball to White, but the striker needed to take a touch, which allowed Elokabi to get back into position and he was able to deflect the young Hendon striker’s shot away for a corner.
Maidstone quickly countered and Olarerin cleared the danger at the expense of a corner. Porter’s delivery was headed over the crossbar by Krasniqi, who felt he should have at least forced North into making a save.
Another Hendon corner, this one in the 70th minute, was well delivered by Lucien and Oshodi was able to win the aerial battle, but not to direct his header under the crossbar.
In the 71st minute, Hendon made their first change, Clarke taking over from Brooks. Two minutes later, in a Maidstone substitution, Amaluzor went off, to be replaced by Ibbi Olutade. It proved to be an inspired change made by Hakan Hayrettin.
Three minutes later, Olutade passed the ball to Carne, who quickly fed Krasniqi. He waited for Hoyte to get down the right wing before rolling an exquisite pass into his path. Hoyte then delivered a beautiful low cross, which OLUTADE flicked into the net, have raced to get in between Byron and Oshodi.
Almost immediately Hendon replaced Forbes, who had been excellent doing the little things in midfield, with Dwade James. It was now all or nothing for the Greens as they went in search of an equaliser which might have set up a penalty shoot-out.
They gave it a good go. Lucien went on one of his signature mazy runs which took him past two defenders as he made his way into the penalty area. Two more men in purple loomed up in front of him and as Lucien tried to go around one of them, he went down.
Hendon fans appealed for a penalty while they players looked on, hoping for a sharp blast of the whistle and a pointing to the penalty spot. Quite correctly, it didn’t come, but the minimal Maidstone contingent nonetheless breathed sighs of relief.
Going into the last minute of normal time, Ball worked himself an opening. He tried to improve his angle for a shot, but was slightly off-balance as he hit the ball. It was not the greatest of strikes, but the ball went through a forest of legs before being gathered by a Lewington, who may have been left stranded by a deflection.
The last throw of the Hendon dice was Sam Corcoran’s introduction – he replaced Olarerin – but there was only four minutes of added time. Maidstone showed their professionalism as they saw out those minutes without allowing any Hendon player a sniff of a chance for glory.