Hendon opened their Southern League Premier Division South season with a narrow and undeserved defeat against Yate Town. The Greens came up against an inspired goalkeeper, who made a number of top-class saves, but they also were guilty of wasting many excellent chances.
Both teams were much changed from their 2021–22 identity with nine of the starting players making either their debuts or returns. And, for Hendon, apart from Joe White, Tommy Brewer had missed the last few months of the campaign. In addition, for the Dons, two of the substitutes were returnees, Guri Demuria and Frank Keita.
Yate started the more brightly and forced a corner in the second minute, from which a goalbound shot was blocked by a defender. Four minutes later, the ever-dangerous Ollie Mehew set up his skipper Joe Tumelty, whose shot drew an excellent save from Marcin Brzozowski.
Hendon started to get into the game, using the width of Rohdell Gordon and Isaac Galliford, but strikers Bobson Bawling and White got little change out of the Bluebells defence. That said, Gordon had a good chance with a diving header, but put it over the bar, while Galliford fired narrowly wide from a good position.
As the first half progressed, the play became rather sloppy, both teams wasting possession with errant passes and runs into blind alleys. Eight minutes before half-time, one of these passages ended with Hendon conceding what turned out to be the game’s only goal.
A Yate missed pass wasn’t controlled by Hendon in midfield and Tumelty took over possession. He played a short pass to Brandon Smalley, who was in space inside the centre circle.
Smalley moved forward with purpose as Prince Henry and Mehew attracted the attention of Hendon centre-backs Brewer and Tarik Moore. The midfield was short-handed so he advanced towards the left side of the penalty area.
From there SMALLEY suddenly turned moved back to the middle of the “D”. Still unchallenged, or even closed down, he unleashed a superb curled shot that gave Brzozowski no chance of making a save.
The Greens nearly fashioned a chance to get a quick equaliser when they cleared a Yate corner. Galliford seemed to have a clear run, but a brilliant run and challenge from Tumelty ensured the opportunity disappeared almost as soon as it appeared.
A minute before half-time, the Greens won a free-kick just outside the penalty area. Galliford and Bawling considered the options and the former took responsibility, his strike forcing Martin Horsell into making an excellent save.
In the resulting scramble, the ball fell to Moore, who had a clear shooting chance, but he put the ball into Silver Jubilee Park. It summed up a frustrating 45 minutes for the Greens, who had misfired from too many promising positions.
White had a 47th-minute chance to equalise, but the ball rolled just a little away from him and he couldn’t get any power to his shot, making Horsell’s low save easy. Hendon were much better for most of the second half, and limited the Bluebells to only a few half-chances.
Going forward Kevin Diomande and Gio Palmer linked with Gordon and Galliford, until the latter was replaced by Frank Keita just before the hour mark. And although the full-backs enjoyed some success out wide, the balls into the danger area rarely matched the quality of the approach play.
In the 70th minute, however, the Greens almost got it right. Palmer did well down the left side and sent a low cross into the middle of the penalty area.
The ball went behind White, who would surely have scored, but Gordon latched onto the ball without a defender near him. He took a stride to steady himself, which allowed Horsell enough time to sprint off his line and block the shot with his body.
A minute later, Gordon had another shooting chance, but Horsell was again equal to it. With 17 minutes of normal time, skipper Brewer made way for Dan Williams, adding to Hendon’s attacking options.
Arthur Iontton and Dave Diedhiou were now in control of the midfield, but Yate kept their defensive discipline and there were few occasions when a green shirt was not immediately swarmed by a yellow one. And when shooting chances presented themselves, Hendon’s attempts flew harmless over the crossbar or wide of the uprights.
The Greens’ last change saw Bawling replaced by Robbie Buchanan, offering the Yate defence a different physical proposition. His darting runs caused consternation and, in the 83rd minute, the ball fell to Williams, who smashed a shot past Horsell, but the goalkeeper, and Yate, were saved by the post, which returned the ball straight to a visiting player to clear.
It was a great let off and Yate then cleverly wound down the clock, with their three substitutions and a few stoppages for injuries. However, Gordon had another great chance to snatch a draw when he made a brilliant diagonal run into the middle of the penalty area. He fired towards the far post, beating Horsell, but also the upright and ball went away for a goal kick.
In the seven minutes of stoppage time, Brzozowski came up to add his height to the Hendon threat at a couple of corners. He was penalised for a push from the first set-piece, but won the second, although he could do no more than head the ball towards the six-yard box, from where it was gratefully cleared.
This Hendon team is still trying to get together and they will play worse than this, especially in the last quarter, and come away with a win. Nonetheless this was a disappointing and frustrating defeat.