Hendon 2 Harrow Borough 4 – Southern League Premier South – Mon 27 August 2018 KO 3pm

Bank Holiday Monday football at Silver Jubilee Park, saw the visit of near neighbours Harrow Borough, for a game which based on early season form, Hendon probably started the slight favourites. Alas it was not to be….

With Marvin Morgan and Ricardo German again leading the line together, hopes were high that Hendon could continue their good early season form, however for one reason or another they never seemed to click and for much of the game looked disjointed, finding themselves over run in midfield at times, which put pressure on a defence which sadly creaked throughout the game.

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After early half chances at both ends, Harrow began to take control, looking brighter and quicker to the ball and it was no surprise when they scored the opening goal, with O’ Connor’s shot taking a deflection to take it past the stranded Hendon goalkeeper Boness and into the net.

Hendon didn’t heed this warning though as to Harrow’s intents and the visitors went close on several more occasions before the second goal arrived, with the Hendon goalkeeper sadly at fault as the ball when Keita’s cross shot squirmed through his grasp and into the net.

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It has to be said 2-0 at half time in no way flattered Harrow who had dominated proceedings in the first period but there was hope that the half time break and some reorganisation would help Hendon get a foothold back in the game. However, the second half couldn’t have started any worse for the home side, as Harrow went further in front in the 48th minute, with yet another deflected shot from Cole, finding its way past Boness and into the corner of the net.

Just before the hour mark, Harrow should have been reduced to ten men, when a challenge from O’Connor which was very late and high and left Cole Brown unable to continue after lengthy treatment, was somehow only punished with a yellow card by the referee, despite the close proximity of both himself and a linesman to the incident.

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The game became more tetchy after this and Morgan let his frustrations get the better of him, as he was late on a Harrow player with a challenge that probably also deserved a red card but with the referee having set the bar for dismissal quite high following the O’Connor challenge, again it was only a yellow. Morgan was substituted moments later to probably save him from the inevitable.

Hendon found a glimmer of hope in the 79th minute when a clear push in the box on a Hendon forward saw the Greens given a penalty kick which top scorer German dispatched. Harrow had begun to sit back and it invited more pressure from Hendon, as defender Demuria was sent further forward to bolster the forward line and they went far more direct. However, as Hendon threw men forward, they were exposed to the counter attack and from one of these Harrow added a 4th goal as Rush tucked home the goal that finished off any lingering Hendon hopes of getting back into the game. German did pull another goal back almost immediately but in all honesty the game had got away from Hendon a long time before and Harrow were in the end very good value for their 4-2 victory.

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So, after the bright start to the season for Hendon, the first real set back has arrived and it will be interesting to see how Jimmy Gray’s side reacts. During the game, frustrations became visible between players once the home side fell behind and the positive spirits of the opening games seemed to dissolve.

Hopefully, this result can be put behind Hendon quickly as a one-off, when for whatever reason, tired legs following the long trip to Taunton 48 hours previously or just a general off day for too many players, the Greens did not gel at all. There is a lot of individual talent within the side but on Monday sadly too many players were off the pace. Now it’s a trip to Swindon Supermarine on Saturday where hopefully things will come together again. As for Harrow, they will be pleased with the three points which push them up into mid table but they will be also looking for defensive improvements, as to date they have conceded 14 goals, which is the most in the division.

For both sides, their opening season in the Southern League Premier South will no doubt continue to be a learning curve, with ups and downs along the way.

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Hendon 2 v Farnborough 1 – Southern League Premier South – Sat 18 August 2018

Stayed local today, as a long trip to find a new ground (my usual Saturday routine) wasn’t possible for a couple of reasons today but i must also be honest i have really enjoyed what this ‘new’ Hendon side have had to offer in the early stages of 2018/19. Building from nothing at all player wise a few weeks ago , through the ups and downs of pre-season with lots of trialists, to this has been very interesting and enjoyable to watch.

So, a rare Saturday visit for me to Silver Jubilee Park  and yet again Jimmy Gray’s new look side didn’t disappoint. I am sure there will be plenty of twists and turns during the season but you cannot fault the effort of the Hendon players and already a decent team spirit and an immediate bond with the crowd seems to be building, which can only be a good thing.

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Farnborough arrived in NW9 top of the table with two wins from their opening two league fixtures and although it is always hard to read anything from the league table at this stage of the season, they look a strong outfit, with some proven players at this level and backed by a decent away following in a crowd of 278.

The early stages were a bit cagey with both defences on top but gradually Hendon began to develop an attacking threat, with Marvin Morgan beginning to win the physical battle, holding the ball up well and allowing players to play off him.

And it was Morgan who created the first goal after 35 minutes, slipping past a defender on the left edge of the box before his cross to the far post was eventually turned in to the net by Cole Brown, for his first goal of the season.

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Morgan starting his first league game for the club, added some bite against Farnborough’s two imposing centre backs and never let them settle and was involved again in the second goal midway through the second half, finding Laste Dombaxe with a square pass on the edge of the box, after a great attacking move and Dombaxe fired a  shot into the far corner of the net, to the delight of the home crowd.

Ricardo German replaced Morgan with twenty minutes to go and had a couple of chances to put the game beyond the visitors, with one effort hitting the bottom of the post but with ten minutes remaining the jitters began for Hendon who were dropping deeper, when substitute Connor Cullen turned in the box and slipped his shot into the bottom corner of the net.

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Hendon then endured a heavy spell of pressure from the visitors as Farnborough went more direct in search of an equaliser which should have arrived with a couple of minutes to go but a shot was dragged wide when it seemed easier to score.  The late storm though was ridden and on the balance of play, Hendon just about deserved the three points.

They were solid in defence, with debutant Romario Jonas having a very impressive first start and dangerous going forward throughout, although a little more composure and thought as to the final ball at times, probably would have brought even great reward, as Farnborough pushed forward and Hendon failed to take advantage of some good situations after breaking up play and getting into good positions several times.

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Overall though, Hendon will be delighted with the opening week to the season, 7 points out of 9 and more importantly a team that is showing real potential and hopefully can only improve further as players begin to get to know each other better. The performances have also definitely begun to build a bond between the fans and the new line up, with supporters again staying behind to applaud the players from the field at the end.

As for Farnborough, they looked a strong side, more streetwise than Walton Casuals on Tuesday and with more players who know this league, so i doubt they will be too far away from the top end of the table come the end of term.

Optimism abounds though at Silver Jubilee Park though at the moment and it will be an interesting next few weeks, as the true look of the table begins to take shape.

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Hendon 3 Walton Casuals 0 – Southern League Premier South – Tues 14 August 2018

First midweek of the new season, so it must be Silver Jubilee Park, the home of Hendon FC, for their opening home league fixture in the Southern League. The visitors were Walton Casuals ( relatively speaking –  one of the shorter midweek trips in this division) who are enjoying their first season at Step 3 under the management of Anthony Gale, son of Casuals chairman and former West Ham defender Tony Gale.

A perfect evening for football, still warm enough for a t-shirt at a push (how much longer will this last!) and the 4G pitch which as a purist i always have reservations about but i must admit does help at this level, allowing teams to get the ball down and try and play, especially during the heavy pitch winter months. And outside of that the pitch has allowed an enormous amount of community and pitch hire activity to the benefit of everyone at Silver Jubilee Park , Hendon & Edgware Town football clubs.

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Hendon kept a similar starting 11 to Saturday but one key change saw Rene Howe drop to the bench and Ricardo German, Saturday’s goalscorer play a more central role up front, which was to bear fruit during the first half.

After early goal mouth action at both ends, Hendon took a foothold in the game midway through the first half, with a couple of goals in quick succession. Firstly Luke Tingey headed home  a really inviting corner from skipper Lee Chappell in the 17th minute, one of those set piece deliveries that is begging to be put away and it was, as Tingey towered above a rather static defence and opening the scoring.

Hendon stepped things up a gear and were rewarded with a second goal in the 25th minute, which was all down to the persistence of Ricardo German as he evaded several challenges on a great run into the six yard box before managing to hook the ball under the keeper and into the net, for a fabulous solo goal.

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Late in the first half, Walton Casuals were given a potential route back into the game with a penalty for a late challenge but Hendon goalkeeper Danny Boness was equal to Kyron Farrell’s strike, diving to his left to push the penalty away.

German sadly had to be replaced at the break after suffering an injury late in the first half but it didn’t affect the balance of the game too much as Hendon dominated the early stages of the second period and after a couple of good chances were missed, they put the game to bed when substitute Tyriq Hunte slotted home from close range after Hendon pressure following a weak clearance by the Casuals keeper.

Walton Casuals had their moments after that but overall the Hendon backline was relatively solid and on-loan keeper Danny Boness produced a number of good saves when called upon.

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Still early days for Hendon but i think everyone connect with the club would have taken 4 points from the first 6 available and whilst not always free-flowing i think the opening two performances have given supporters an early cause for optimism in what was always going to be an interesting season given all the upheaval of the summer.  Walton Casuals offered a threat  going forward and with a bit more composure and luck could and probably should have got on the score sheet, however they looked vulnerable at the back throughout the game which is no doubt something they will look to address.

Probably not until 10 or 12 games have been played will we have a better insight into the overall quality of the division but with Farnborough the next visitors to Silver Jubilee Park on Saturday, Hendon have given themselves a solid base to build momentum from.

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Frome Town 1 Hendon 1 – Southern League Premier South – Sat 11 August 2018

I came to work in London about 15 years ago and despite visiting lots of grounds and clubs in and around the M25 over the ensuing years, only one club really has gained my ‘support’ during this time, that is Hendon FC.

From my first visit to Claremont Road ( I think the season before the doors were locked and Hendon departed for the last time) in 2007, there was something about the club that held my attention and over the last ten years i have become a regular mid week supporter both home and away ( Saturday’s tend to take me elsewhere with the groundhopping).

They have been an eventful ten years, that have seen the club play ‘home’ games at many venues (Wembley FC, Harrow Borough FC, Staines Town & Northwood amongst those i remember) as Gary McCann put together teams year after year that battled against the odds and that kept Hendon as the longest serving members of the Isthmian (now Bostik) Premier division.

Last season, was probably one of the most enjoyable in all that time, as McCann put together an excellent side, full of attacking intent and goals, who reached the divisional play-off final, only to suffer the heartbreak of a penalty shoot out defeat away at Dulwich Hamlet.

Unfortunately as feared, the play-off failure led to the break up of an excellent team, including a fearsome forward line led by leading goalscorer Niko Muir who has made a goalscoring start to life in the National League this season with Hartlepool United. In fact, it became more than the loss of a few decent players, as the long serving manager Gary McCann also decided to move on to pastures new at Hampton & Richmond Borough and took a number of players with him.

When new boss Jimmy Gray was appointed in June 2018, he was in fact left with literally no players and a need to completely rebuild the playing side of the club just a few weeks before the 2018/19 campaign began. The pre-season friendly programme (of which i saw a few) saw a multitude of trialists and new faces come and go, as the new boss tried to find a squad that would give the club a chance of being competitive.

This task was made more difficult by off the field matters, as following the major restructure at Steps 3 & 4 of the non league pyramid, Hendon were switched to the Southern League Premier South, ending their 55 year stay in the top division of Isthmian League football. So 2018/19 sees the club embark on a new journey, with new players, a new manager and plenty of new grounds to visit.

Hence why i ended up watching Hendon on their opening Saturday of the season, with Frome Town’s quirky Badgers Hill ground a new one for me too. The game kicked off in light drizzle which grew steadily heavier as the afternoon went by and with so many new players amongst both teams, the game lacked any real quality if i am honest but from a Hendon point of view , the team was solid and organised and that gives a base to build on as they go forward.

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The second half had a little more goal mouth action and Hendon took the lead just after the hour with probably their first real shot on target, when debutant Ricardo German curled a shot over the heads of a few defenders from inside the box which nestled in the roof of the net. That really should have been that, as Frome Town themselves had shown little goal threat throughout the game, however sometimes you can just tell in situations like this that a goal will come out of the blue and it did, as Hendon failed to clear a corner and following a game of pin-ball in the box, the ball eventually was deemed to have just crossed the line by the linesman and Frome Town had their equaliser with a couple of minutes remaining.

So a point most Hendon fans would have taken at the start of this journey into the unknown but a point that Jimmy Gray and his team will be disappointed didn’t turn into all three, as it probably should have done.

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Hendon will doubtless remain a work in progress for much of the early part of the season, as they try to find the right balance in a league that offers a new challenge. It will be interesting to see how they go.

The game was also unique for me i think on the programme front , with the matchday programme definitely the first i can ever remember that got both teams wrong…. the devil is  in the detail.

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