HENDON V NORTH LEIGH (by David Ballheimer)
Hendon (0) 0, North Leigh (1) 2
Hendon produced a hugely disappointing performance as they went down to North Leigh, who picked up their first points at step 3 with a comfortable 2–0 victory. The result leaves the Greens at the foot of the table without a point and a single goal scored.
Desperate to find a winning formula, manager Lee Allinson shuffled his front four again. Frank Keita and Isaac Galliford returned to the starting line-up, with Bobson Bawling and Dan Williams dropping back to the substitutes bench.
North Leigh began brightly and Roger James, who had already showed he was a threat out on the left, opened the scoring after just six minutes. JAMES received another pass in space, moved forward and before Josh Dawodu could close him down, he bent the ball inside the far post with a powerful, precise shot.
Hendon used Rohdell Gordon and Galliford as wide men with Frank Keita playing just behind Joe White in essentially a four-man attack. Behind them, Dave Diedhiou was the defensive midfielder with Arthur Iontton in a more forward, play-making role.
However, North Leigh were happy to keep the ball in midfield, occasionally trying to release Levi Steele, James, and Amer Awadh to attack Dawodu, Tommy Brewer, Tarik Moore and Gio Palmer. This meant Gordon, Galliford and Keita were dragged back into the increasing congested centre of the field.
After 14 minutes, Palmer did well to link with Gordon and he delivered a beautifully weighted cross into the penalty. White lost his marker and glanced a header towards the far post, but Adam North produced a fine save to preserve the Millers’ lead.
It would another 24 minutes before either team had an attack of note and again White and North were involved. The striker was allowed to turn and shoot, and North was equal to the attempt.
A minute later, Awadh tried his luck from 25 yards and his precise strike beat Marcin Brzozowski, but not the crossbar and the ball bounced away to safety.
Four minutes into the second half, a free-kick from Awadh saw Steele run clear of Brewer but his side-foot from five yards out cleared the crossbar. He held his head in his hands thinking it might have proved to be a disastrous miss, but his blushes were saved a minute later.
Jordan Thomas played a ball behind the Hendon defence, JAMES timed his run perfectly to leave Brewer trailing and then neatly slipped the ball past Brzozowski to make it 2–0.
Hendon needed to make an immediate response and they nearly got it when Keita powered a header goalwards. North made another good save, parrying the ball to his left, but Dawodu – from an acute angle – blasted the rebound off target.
Bawling and Williams were brought on for Iontton and Galliford, but they did not get a look in against a well-marshalled North Leigh defence. Those changes – and Solomon Sambou’s introduction in place of Diedhiou – meant that White, the Greens’ main goal threat, was now deep in midfield and the attacking line had no obvious leader.
The result was that no further meaningful attempts on goal came from Hendon, while too many shooting opportunities were missed as players took the pass option instead of responsibility for shooting. The one time there was a shot, from Williams, the ball sailed high over the crossbar.
Six minutes from the end of normal time, things nearly got worse for Hendon when they conceded a free-kick on the edge of their penalty area. Awadh struck the ball sweetly, and Brzozowski did well to punch the swerving, dipping strike away from danger.