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Hendon’s longest Tuesday night journey of the season saw them ride their luck in the first half to bring home a hard-earned point and welcome clean sheet against Yate Town at Lodge Road.
Boss Lee Allinson made two changes to the side that had beaten Hartley Wintney at the weekend with Ricardo German replacing the absent Liam Brooks up front whilst Tafari Moore returned after suspension at right-back with Maurice Nugent dropping to the bench.
Although the scoresheet remained untainted by scorers, the match was extremely entertaining. The home side completely dominated the first period, although the first opening fell to the Greens as the ball fell to Hamza Semakula, but his shot was well blocked by a defender. The first of a host of opportunities to fall to the home side in the opening 45 minutes dropped for Ricardo Rees, but his effort was scuffed and Ethan Wady was able to muddy his knees for the first time, saving comfortably.
There was a lengthy stoppage after a nasty clash of heads involving the game’s stand-out outfield player, Yate skipper Sam Kamara, and tall centre-half Matthew Bower with the latter requiring attention that lasted 7 minutes and ended with him sporting a Terry Butcher-esq headband, albeit rather whiter than the former England skipper’s had been.
Max Williams was at the heart of most of Yate’s good things in the first half and it was his dipping shot from 25-yards that produced a crucial fingertip stop from Wady. From the corner, the ball fell nicely again for Williams on the edge of the box and again his on-target effort was deflected wide, this time by a Green shirt. Joshua Okotcha then made the first of three key first-half interventions inside his own penalty area to deny Rees a shot on goal.
The home side continued to press, the skill, passing and movement of their front four causing Hendon’s defence and midfield no end of trouble. Williams was unfortunate when he nutmegged Simeon Olalerin, shimmied past Okotcha but overran the ball marginally to allow Wady to smother at his feet. Bower was then denied by a comfortable Wady save as he used his height to direct a corner goalward, Okotcha then made a sensational challenge to deny Luke Hopper’s shot.
One-way traffic would be doing Yate’s dominance a disservice, had this been a Boxing bout the referee would have called time on Hendon. Rees fired another dipping effort that didn’t quite dip enough just over the top before Wady made a quite brilliant save at full stretch from a Hopper header that was destined for the far corner. The assistant’s flag was up for offside rendering any goal moot, however Wady was completely unaware when he flung himself headlong to his left.
A home goal seemed inevitable as Hopper found himself eased out the way by Moore as he looked to tap in a right-wing cross inside the six-yard box, Okotcha then stood up well to repel another Williams strike and Rees was denied again by Wady as he went for placement over power from the edge of the box.
On the stroke of half-time Hendon very nearly snatched the most unlikely of advantages as German found half a yard of space on the edge of the box to strike at Andrew Hannah’s goal, this time it was a white shirt that got a crucial touch on the ball to deflect it wide of the post.
As the official brought the first half to a close, the Green shirts were able to lift themselves off the ropes and find their way into the dressing room.
The second half was a much more even affair as Lee Allinson adjusted the side’s shape. Quba Gordon picked up an early yellow card before a couple of Hendon set pieces caused some consternation in the home defence, the second one seeing the ball fall for Joe White who saw his effort blocked by Bower.
German then exited the fray after appearing to tweak his groin to be replaced by Riccardo Alexander-Greenaway before Wady made the latest of a string of fine saves to deny Hopper. The chance had stemmed from his own poor clearance, however as the ball was worked to the home side’s number 9, his looping lofted effort required the Chelsea loanee to use every millimetre of his frame to stretch and turn the ball over the top with a strong fingertip.
Yate’s right-back then made the first of two outstanding challenges in his own penalty area to deny Joe White after the Hendon striker looked to have sprung the offside trap and found himself clear on goal before Wady, again, was in action, this time to deny Ollie Mehew by standing tall and using his feet to block after the Yate winger had been played in by an adroit ball by Hopper. A couple of minutes later and Wady produced a brilliant save at full-stretch to palm away a swerving strike from Turl that was destined for the top corner.
From the corner, Bower again used his frame to good effect to meet the cross but powered his header no more than a foot wide of the post.
Hendon responded well once again, Eren Kinali forcing a decent save from Hannah low to the goalkeeper’s right with a curling effort from the corner of the penalty box – then it was the home side’s turn to press once again. A low drive cross from the left wing was blocked by Wady and then as a home forward looked to turn the ball home, Alexander-Greenaway was on hand to hack the ball clear.
As brilliant as Wady had been all evening to repel wave after wave of Yate attacks, the save of the night came from the home custodian.
Kinali showed a silken touch to gather the ball into his stride before unleashing a powerful effort at goal. It took what looked like a fatal nick off a defender to take the ball seemingly beyond Hannah, however the goalkeeper – wrong-footed and moving the wrong way – instinctively threw out his left foot to make a staggering save.
The game moved towards the 90-minute mark and neither side was prepared to give an inch. Huge penalty shouts for handball against a sprawling Green shirt to block a goal-bound shot were waved away whilst at the other end, Jayden Clarke stepped in off the left flank to strike powerfully at goal only for Turl, for the second time, to make a quite brilliant lunging block.
The final whistle brought a thoroughly entertaining and absorbing encounter to a conclusion and with it, a very welcome point for the Greens to take back down the M4 with them.