Hendon produced a thoroughly competent performance in brushing aside Tonbridge Angels at LOOT Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The 2-0 victory in the 1st round of the FA Umbro Trophy sets up a second round clash against Worcester City on Saturday 2 December. After going 3 weeks without a game, Hendon boss Frank Murphy was worried that the team might be rusty and the heavy pitch would possibly find them out. The opening 10 minutes showed that his concerns were unfounded.
Joe Radford had already produced two excellent saves in the opening stages before Hendon took a 10th minute lead. The hard work was done by David Adekola, who was too strong for Danny Tingley, brushing aside his challenge. The burly striker fired in a powerful shot which Radford did well to turn aside.
The ball fell to Iain Duncan, who sent in another powerful shot which Radford again did well to beat away. This time DUNCAN made no mistake, calmly slotting the ball past Radford and a couple of defenders on the goalline.
Phil Gridelet and Ross Pickett both should have had first half hat-tricks, the former firing three shots from good positions over the bar. Pickett was guilty of taking too long with one chance and shooting weakly at Radford for another, but the best chance of all came after Adekola had left Simon Elliott floundering in the mud.
The African's cross only needed a simple header from Pickett, who was in front of his marker. Although it looked as if Nick Humphrey pushed Pickett to get to the ball, the Hendon man's attempt at goal was woefully weak.
In defence, Simon Clarke, Duncan, Warren Kelly and Gary Fitzgerald weren't unduly troubled, although skipper Fitzgerald did get a yellow card for a reckless challenge. Tonbridge's best chance was a 29th minute free-kick from former Hendon man Alan Tutton, who spotted Richard Wilmot a couple of yards off his line at a free-kick 30 yards from goal. His well struck curler was dipping just under the bar until Wilmot produced an excellent save, tipping it away for a corner.
The goalkeeper, in the third month of his loan spell, had a magnificent game in trying circumstances. He caught all but one of the crosses he came for, and that one he punched away to safety, as well as clearing his lines expertly. and setting up quick attacks with accurate throws and kicks.
It seemed that a second goal would just about decide the game and it arrived just before half-time. Jason Soloman attacked down the right flank and had Duncan steaming up outside him. The wing-back screamed for the ball and got it at perfect pace for him to run onto it, again leaving Elliott trailing in his wake.
Duncan's low cross was destined to reach Adekola's foot for a relatively simple tap-in until Gene CLOUT stuck his boot out and neatly turned the ball past his Radford for an own goal. One Hendon supporter rather cruelly derided Pickett's hard working performance (except in front of goal) by noting that at least one No. 9 knew where the goal was.
The second half was nowhere near as good as the first and the energy-sapping conditions were only partly responsible. Tonbridge had no answer to the rampaging runs of Dale Binns and Adekola in the opening 15 minutes and their defending at times bordered on panic-stricken. Binns could have won a penalty after 56 minutes when Humphrey, again on the wrong side of an attacker, pushed him. The appeals were turned away by referee, Mr C Couzens (Herts), probably more out of pity than anything else.
In the final 20 minutes, as Hendon brought on Paul Adolphe, Paul Johnson and Bontcho Guentchev (for Binns, Fitzgerald and Pickett respectively), Tonbridge enjoyed their best spell of the game. Player manager Colin Blewden and striker Dave Arter bolstered the Angels' front line, but there was still no way through.
"This was a very good performance today," said Mr Murphy, himself an unused substitute. "In fact it was maybe the most complete one of the season. I was very worried about our lack of matches and the heavy pitch but we coped well with both."