Hendon were gifted an early own goal and it turned out to be the only one that counted in a fiercely contested local derby against Harrow Borough. It certainly wasn’t the greatest game played between the rivals who had met for 41 consecutive seasons until the Covid-curtailed campaign of 2020–21.
After three straight reverses, Hendon made two changes with Kyen Nicolas and Jayden Clarke replacing Keiron Forbes and Shaun Lucien. Onto the bench came Sam Corcoran, back after missing a few weeks with an injury and Riccardo Alexander-Greenaway, who served a one-game suspension after his red card against Dorchester Town.
The Greens made the perfect start. After barely 60 seconds a ball was played into the danger area, Jayden Clarke glanced a header goalwards only to see it rebound off the far post. In attempting to clear the danger, Amit Biler inadvertantly headed the ball into his own net.
Harrow tried hard to get back into the game with George Moore and ex-Don Michael Bryan probing out wide. They got little change out of Simeon Olarerin and Lucas Perry, while Lewis Hobbs and Quba Gordon, assisted by Christian Smith, dealt with Anthony O’Connor and Frank Keita.
Clarke then saw his powerful shot blocked away for a Hendon corner, while efforts from Moore and Keita were narrowly off target. Chances from both ends, however, were at a premium.
Biler’s miserable afternoon came to a premature end after 35 minutes, when he injured his leg and was replaced by Alfred Cain.
On the stroke of half-time Bayley Brown bravely blocked a drive from Keita and players from both teams watched on with baited breath as the ball trundled inches wide of the far post. The wrong-footed Fred Burbidge tried desperately to get across to the upright, but would not have been able to make a save if the deflected shot had been on target.
Before the start of the second half, Alexander-Greenaway and Toby Byron were introduced at the expense of Nicholas and Gordon, the latter having picked up a knock just before the interval, the former still working his way back to full fitness after his terrible injury last year.
Early in the second half, Smith struck a free-kick which required a save from Las, but it would be filed under routine. Harrow continued to press, but their final ball all too often found touch rather than a red-shirted player.
Brown probably should have done better in the 54th minute, when good combination work from Clarke, Carvalho and Smith. The tall midfielder tried to take a touch before shooting, and the ball dribbled too close to Las for him to get any purchase on a shot.
A couple of minutes later, Hamza Semakula was blocked off the ball by Cain as it rolled out for a goal kick. The substitute was off balance, however, and fell heavily into the pitch surround, which incensed a couple of Harrow players and a brouhaha ensued. The result was one caution for each team.
Leo Donnellan, whose father and uncle played for Hendon in the 1990s (and he spent a month on loan at Silver Jubilee Park a few years ago), came close to getting an equaliser with a header from a corner, but Burbidge made a fine save.
The final 25 minutes were fraught for all the Hendon fans, but there was always a green shirt (or blue in Burbidge’s case) to make a timely intervention to deny a Harrow raider. A Harrow free-kick in a dangerous position was well-blocked by the defensive wall and was eventually cleared to safety.
In the 85th minute, Brown, who had been cautioned midway through the second half, mistimed a tackle and was given a very stern warning by the referee that any further indiscretion would result in a second yellow card and dismissal. He remained whole-hearted and made a couple of timely challenges, winning the ball on both occasions.
As the game moved into an agonisingly long five minutes of additional time, Luca Allinson was introduced in place of Carvalho, but this was little more than an exercise in wasting precious seconds.