Thursday evening saw Hendon travel to Welwyn Garden City FC to play AFC Welwyn, who are groundsharing there for 2023-24. Hendon won 7-0, but their score should have been much higher.
AFC Welwyn are a new club, founded during the 2022-23 season with the stated aim of reaching the Premier League in 12 years! As they begin this season, their first, in the Spartan South Midlands Division 2 - step 7 of Non-League and level 11 of the English Football pyramid, this requires 11 successive promotions - extremely unlikely, but not impossible in theory.
The gulf between step 3 and step 7 of Non-League was shown to be large, particularly during the second half, when both clubs made multiple substitutions.
During the first half it was clear that there was some ability in the AFC Welwyn side, which included three ex-Hendon Academy players, two of whom are dual registered with both the clubs in this match.
Hendon led by 2-0 at the interval, thanks to goals from Florian Endouvou Ada and Simeon Olarerin, the latter a thunderous 25-yard drive which crashed into the net via the inside of the far post. They should have been much further ahead, but some good goalkeeping by Aaron Bull and determined, if at times somewhat lucky, defending by AFC Welwyn, aided by rather inefficient finishing by the Green's forwards, prevented this.
Hendon made 8 changes at the intervals, only Matt Kerbey, Hamza Semakula and Niko Muir keeping their places. The substitutes included three trialists (they were unknown to the club secretary), two of whom wore unnumbered shirts. As these two operated in different areas of the field it was quite simple to tell them apart.
Niko Muir scored a typical goal early in the second half, and his replacement by a returning Endouvou Ada was the prelude to three goals within five minutes, the first scored by Blaise Riley-Snow - an unstoppable drive from about 30 yards out into the top corner of the net, the second and his second for Endouvou Ada, and the third for the trialist who replaced Joe White. Thami Mmakola completed the scoring shortly before the close.
Phil Neville, who will be known by a number of Hendon supporters, is now part of the coaching team at AFC Welwyn. His Hendon connections go back to at least the mid 1990s, when he and John Rogers (our current club secretary) were part of the same team playing for Hendon Youth for three seasons at U15 to U17 level. Much more recently, Phil was part of Lee Allinson's coaching staff for a season.
We wish AFC Welwyn all the best for the future, and hope that they have an enjoyable and successful first season.
[Addendum : Following the signing of Finlay MacNab from Hanworth Villa on 8th September 2023, it was noted that he was the trialist wearing #20 who replaced Joe White at half-time in this match; he scored the sixth goal. The line-up and scorers have been amended on 11th September to reflect this.]