Hendon produced a performance of confidence and competence in brushing aside Ford Unied's challenge in the 3rd qualifying round of the AXA-sponsored FA Cup at LOOT Stadium on Saturday. The match was an excellent advertisement for football on a wet and heavy pitch which, nonetheless, played very well.
Although Ford had a couple of good chances, Hendon were probably a little better man for man and wasted half a dozen excellent openings over the 90 minutes. The Greens were forced into a couple of changes because of suspensions, Curtis Warmington and David Adekola taking over for Paul Towler and Davis Haule, but were otherwise at full strength. The Motormen were less fortunate and could only name 3 substitutes, one of whom Dean Lay, was a goalkeeper.
Ford started very brightly and in the second minute, Gary Fitzgerald had to head a cross over his own bar with Billy Read lurking at the far post. A minute later, Read turned provider with a pinpoint cross which found Dave Jolley unmarked, level with the near post, 6 yards out. A header even slightly to his left must have hit the target; instead Jolley opted for power and sent the ball 3 yards wide of the post.
After this rocky start, Hendon began to get into the game. In the 7th minute, Phil Gridelet, who had been the victim of a stray elbow in the Ford penalty area, fired in a shot which was blocked by Danny Benstock who threw himself in front of the ball. After 9 minutes, Ford goalkeeper-chairman Jimmy Chapman produced an excellent double save to deny first Ross Pickett then, on the rebound, Adekola, who had no time to set himself for his effort.
The Hendon midfield of Gridelet, Jason Soloman and Jon Daly, began to exert control, with Soloman in particular causing the Ford defence with some excellent running and it was not a real surprise when Hendon took the lead in the 12th minute.
An astute ball from midfield was well controlled by Adekola, with Glen Thomas marking him tightly. The Nigerian did well to hold him off and work an opening 20 yards from goal. ADEKOLA's shot was not the most powerful, but Chapman was unsighted by Benstock's attempted challenge and moving to his left, could only watch the ball roll inside his right post.
Chapman was soon put in trouble by a pair of back-passes. His first effort went directly to Adekola, whose first-time return shot lacked the power to embarrass the goalkeeper. Then Pickett came in to deny Chapman space and the clearance was spooned out to the right wing. The striker tried to get his foot to ball and was surprised to see the goalkeeper lying on the ground clutching his left ankle because his challenge was to Chapman's right.
Three minutes after half-time, Ford got themselves back into the game. They had again started the half stronger, but there did not seem much on as Leli Bejeda put a low cross into the danger area. This time the ball eluded two defenders and fell to Billy READ. He drove a low shot into the bottom corner, probably the only place where Richard Wilmot could not reach.
After 57 minutes, Warmington limped off and Dale Binns was introduced. This meant a major reshuffle for Hendon, with Daly dropping back into the defence and Binns given a free role behind the front two. The change worked to Hendon's advantage as Daly looked completely comfortable in his new role and Binns ran riot. He shot wide after 60 minutes then, 2 minutes later, set up Iain Duncan, who shot over from a good position.
In the 70th minute, referee Mr M Ebbage (Bucks) showed his only yellow card of the day to Jamie Bly for a cynical body-check on Simon Clarke. The referee had an excellent day, allowing the two teams to play and keeping up with the action for the whole 90 minutes.
From the free-kick, Ford were able to clear quickly and set up a dangerous counter-attack. The ball was fed out to Andy Aransibia, who sped past the last defender before rounding Wilmot. The former Hornchurch striker side-footed the ball towards the unguarded net and was turning away in joy, only to see Kelly sprinting back and clearing the ball away for a corner. From this set-piece, Hendon scored.
The ball was cleared from the corner and it was Hendon's turn to launch a counter-attack. ADEKOLA got the ball 25yards out. He shrugged off his marker again and this time rifled a magnificent shot beyond Chapman's left hand just inside the far post. It was a goal worthy of winning any cup tie.
There was enough time for Chapman to produce two stunning saves to deny Binns following a pair of excellent runs through the heart of the defence. Ford were simply unable to halt the youngster as he led the defence a merry dance.
Ford's last chance fell to substitute Billy Cove, but Wilmot made a fine save to keep out the effort. Bontcho Guentchev and Marvyn Watson replaced Pickett and Soloman, respectively as Hendon held out with some comfort.
"We played well today," said manager Frank Murphy, "but in the FA Cup I don't care how we play as long as we win. In cup games, winning is more important than good performances."