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Hendon ended their winless run with a comprehensive 3–1 victory over Walton Casuals at a bitterly cold and windy Silver Jubilee Park on Saturday. After a number of disappointing results and performances, this was a breath of fresh air as the Greens took control early and never really looked like relinquishing it.
Christian Smith returned to the starting line-up, where he was joined by new signing Eren Kinali, on a month’s loan from National League Southend United, and Simeon Olarerin. Dropping out of the 11 were Kyron Richards, Gianni Crichlow – required by parent club Braintree Town for their Buildbase FA Trophy tie – and Sam Dreyer.
The on-loan Stevenage centre-back was named on the bench alongside Quba Gordon, who was back after his concussion at Salisbury three weeks earlier. Meanwhile, recent Hendon departure Wilson Carvalho was in the Casuals line-up.
Both teams struggled with the wind which was blowing uphill at Hendon’s backs. What might have been astute passes flew upfield without a green-shirted player having a chance to control it. On the counter-side, long balls downfield from the Stags blew straight back at the kicker.
In the 13th minute, a carelessly conceded free-kick gave Shaun Lucien the chance to shoot at the Walton goal. His effort beat Jacob Adams all ends up, but the ball cannoned off the crossbar and the rebound favoured the Stags.
A minute later, Liam Brooks found himself in the clear, but Adams made a fine save with his legs as he came off his line. Hendon were forced to make a change after a quarter of an hour when Tommy Brewer went off and he was replaced by Gordon.
All Hendon’s good early work was nearly undone when a Walton attack was not completely dealt with and the ball landed at the feet of Gabriel Odunaike three yards from goal and unmarked. Fred Burbidge was in front of him so it wasn’t a tap-in, but Odunaike blasted the ball high over the crossbar and into the park.
In the 25th minute, Walton’s tackling technique was called into question as Brooks made a powerful run, past three or four defenders. Instead of shooting, Brooks passed to Kinali, who saw his goalbound shot superbly saved by Adams.
It delayed the opening goal by nine minutes. Kinali was brought down just outside the Walton penalty area and this time it was Christian Smith who took the free-kick.
His effort was on target however he was denied by an outstanding flying save from Adams high to the goalkeeper's right. On this occasion, Hendon were fastest to the rebound and when the ball came back into the area, KINALI swivelled and struck a magnificent overhead kick into the back of the net.
The last Hendon player to score his first Hendon goal with an overhead kick was World Cup semi-finalist Bontcho Guentchev, on his first start for the Greens, against Canvey Island in a 3–2 victory at Claremont Road in August 1999.
Four minutes later, another mazy run at the Stags defence brought a big reward. Lucien came in off the left wing, danced past a couple of would-be tacklers and, instead of shooting, passed to BROOKS, who took a touch and found the bottom corner of the goal with a precise finish.
Hamza Semakula also tried his luck with a run at the Walton defence. Instead of shooting, he tried to find Kinali but the ball was overstruck.
At half-time, Walton made a substitution, sending on John Gilbert in place of Carvalho. The Portuguese wide man had got absolutely no change out of Olarerin, who seemed to know every move Carvalho was going to make.
Prayers from Hendon fans that the wind might drop during the interval went unanswered so they knew the Greens’ defence would have to work a great deal harder than in the first 45 minutes. However, Tafari Moore, Olarerin, Gordon and Smith were more than up to the task so Burbidge was far from overworked.
There was one moment of worry when a long kick from Adams deceived Gordon – it travelled almost 80 yards – and Gilbert fastened onto the ball. His dipping shot was destined to go under the crossbar, but Burbidge made a spectacular full-stretch leaping save, tipping the ball over the bar.
Walton’s frustration was growing as a succession of forward passes blew away from their runners. When they were awarded a free-kick in a good position, the ball was struck too hard and disappeared into the night sky.
With 20-odd minutes to go, the Greens made their second change, Sam Corcoran bringing midfield strength and stability at the expense of Lucien. His arrival allowed Jayden Clarke to move forward into a more attacking midfield position where he joined Semakula.
Their running through the middle continued to unsettle the Walton defence and two or three half-chances came the Greens way but they weren’t taken. The feeling was if Hendon could convert one, the game would be won.
Sure enough, the chance came and it was taken. White picked up the ball and went on a mazy run through a number of defenders. A dip of his shoulder took him into the middle of the penalty area and with a nonchalant flick, WHITE knocked the ball past the hopelessly exposed Adams.
Clarke should have made it 4–0 when he ran through the Walton defence, but he hurried his shot and fired the ball over the crossbar.
With five minutes to go, Walton got a lifeline. Another enormous goal-kick from Adams deceived Gordon and GILBERT pounced, controlling the ball and striking it low into the corner beyond Burbidge’s dive.
Hendon nerves were quickly soothed because the Greens stiffened their resolve and made sure that the Stags never got a real chance to add to their late goal. Indeed, as Walton over-committed to attack, Hendon had a couple of chances to maybe add another goal, but they were content to take the ball into the corners and further frustrate Walton.
The win lifted Hendon to 14th in the division, nine points above the bottom three, but only seven points away from sixth place. Tuesday’s game against Metropolitan Police, currently second in the table, three points behind leaders Farnborough with a game in hand, is likely to prove a much more difficult test.