Hendon advanced to the quarter-final of the Middlesex Senior Cup with a very comfortable 2-0 victory over Wembley at Vale Farm on Thursday evening. The Greens will be away to Uxbridge on a day to be confirmed, but probably it will be on Thursday 1 March.
After the experiment of playing the reserve side in the first game, Hendon made no bones about trying to win at the second time of asking. It was just about a full strength side that faced Wembley on a pitch that was - after the last five months of rain - naturally very soft and energy-sapping.
In the 10th minute, Davis Haule was too strong for Wayne Walters, who fell to the ground hoping to win a free-kick. Referee, Mr M Downey (Hounslow), allowed play to continue and Haule curled the ball over the onrushing Ade Solarin, but it struck the inside of the post. David Adekola was maybe a little slow to react to the chance that now fell his way and Nick Christie hacked the ball away to safety.
It delayed the inevitable by only a couple of minutes. Haule again timed a run perfectly, this time collecting a through ball from Jason Soloman. He took the ball around the keeper, regained his balance and as Christie raced to the goal-line, HAULE drove the shot in the direction the defender had come from, leaving him without a chance to block or clear the ball.
Within 2 minutes, Wembley could and possibly should have equalised as Victor Badu got around the back of the Hendon defence. Gary McCann was very quickly off his line and he made a brilliant low save. That was the last real chance Wembley had in the first half.
At the other end, without ever really peppering the Wembley goal with on-target attempts, Hendon gave the defence the complete run-around. Kristian Hale and Avi Schwarz were dragged all over Middlesex as Hendon got the ball out wide, but Haule and Adekola, to name but two, were wayward in their finishing.
The decisive second goal arrived a minute before half-time. Paul Adolphe linked with Iain Duncan and then did superbly well to reach the ball as it neared the goal-line just inside the penalty area. He not only kept the ball in play, but delivered an inch-perfect cross to ADEKOLA, who despite being under pressure, drove the ball into the roof of the net as he went to ground.
Wembley started the second half very brightly and might have reduced the arrears in the opening couple of minutes, McCann again making a good save. Hendon, who had replaced Duncan with Marvyn Watson, came to terms with the slightly more defensive outlook and set about holding onto their clean sheet.
Gradually, the Dons regained the initiative and the arrival of Ross Pickett and Bontcho Guentchev for Adekola and Phil Gridelet, respectively, just after the hour mark, nearly led to a third goal. The Bulgarian's first touch made space for himself and when he crossed low into the box, Pickett's drive beat Solarin, but not Walters, who hacked the ball clear.
Haule came close with a header which Solarin beat away and Gary Fitzgerald couldn't get quite enough power on another header. Solarin made two or three good saves while the home defence rode its luck as they got a number of fortunate bounces at critical moments.
Full credit to Wembley however, for their style. They did not stop attempting to pass the ball while rarely troubling the Dons defence when they did get forward. They sensed there was key to unlock them, but try as they might could not find it.