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Hendon 2 Leiston 1: Greens move back into Bostik Premier play-off places with success over Blues

PUBLISHED: 09:00 14 February 2018 | UPDATED: 14:48 14 February 2018

Hendon manager Gary McCann in the dug-out against Sutton United (Pic: Derek Beech)

Hendon manager Gary McCann in the dug-out against Sutton United (Pic: Derek Beech)

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Bostik Premier: Hendon 2 (Walker 3, Lee 69) Leiston 1 (Marsden 19)

Hendon got back to winning ways with a well-deserved victory against fellow playoff-chasers Leiston at Silver Jubilee Park. It was another miserable day for football, but the Greens did their bit to lighten the gloom with a sparkling display, especially in the second half.

There were four changes to the team which had been frustrated by Dorking Wanderers on Saturday, Jake Eggleton, Harold Joseph, Niko Muir and Keagan Cole being replaced by Sam Murphy, Oliver Sprague, Josh Walker and Dave Diedhiou.

All but the injured Eggleton were among the substitutes, though Muir, who had picked up a slight knock, was not risked. Also on the bench was James Hammond, who had been such a key contributor at the end of last season, and who had signed back at the club last week.

The first chance for the Greens came in the opening minute, when Leiston conceded a corner needlessly, then failed to deal with it. Hendon did not capitalise as Rian Bray struck his shot just wide of the post.

Barely a minute later, Marcus Garnham, whose misplaced pass had led to the corner, made a hash of a clearance. Walker controlled the ball on the edge of the 18-yard-box, committed Garnham to go to ground and rolled the ball past him into the net.

For the next 10 minutes, every time Walker, Zak Joseph and Ashley Nathaniel-George ran with the ball, the Leiston defence was on high alert. In the 10th minute, Nathaniel-George saw his effort saved by Garnham and, five minutes later, a long, powerful run from Sprague ended with him firing a shot inches wide of the target.

Hendon then took their feet of the gas slightly and allowed Leiston back into the game. And, in the 19th minute, a slip by Casey Maclaren, who was dispossessed as he tried to play his way out of trouble near to his right corner flag, led to the equaliser.

Byron Lawrence took the ball away from Maclaren, ran towards the goal but instead of trying to shoot from an acute angle, he rolled the ball into the path of Joe Marsen. He made no mistake beating Tom Lovelock from close range.

For the rest of the half, Leiston were Hendon’s equal. Matt Blake forced a good save from Lovelock, while Diedhiou came close with a powerful header from a cross.

The second half was almost completely dominated by the Greens, with Joseph outstanding. That said, Chris Henderson and Blake both had good opportunities to give Leiston the lead in the opening five minutes of the period, the former shooting wide, the latter firing straight at Lovelock, who saved comfortably.

At the other end, Walker was denied by a good save from Garnham, as was Sprague from a free-kick. Another Sprague free-kick flashed across the face of the goal, and just missed the far post and the onrushing Hendon attackers, who would have needed only a touch to divert the ball into the net.

As the Greens attacked from all angles, Garnham finally put aside his early-game jitters to make good saves to thwart both Joseph and Nathaniel-George. Hendon made their first change midway through the half when Cole replaced Maclaren, to add to the attacking options.

Three minutes later, Garnham was beaten by Luke Tingey’s powerful drive from the edge of the penalty area. The effort, however, went inches wide of the target.

The Hendon next attack brought the winning goal. A Leiston defender probably should have done better with his clearance, but he conceded a corner instead of a throw-in.

When the ball reached the penalty area, Arthur Lee won the aerial contest and directed the ball towards goal. It should have been either an easyish save for Garnham or a routine clearance for full-back Kyle Hammond, guarding the post, however, they appeared to leave the ball for each other and it trundled, almost apologetically, between them into the net.

Hendon continued to create almost all of the good opportunities, but Garnham was equal to three excellent strikes, two from Joseph and one from Nathaniel-George. James Hammond replaced Walker for the final 15 or so minutes, a change which saw Sam Murphy move into midfield.

The decisive third goal, however, would not come and although Tingey had done very well in keeping Henderson quiet and Bray and Lee had almost nullified the threat from Blake, there was still the feeling that Leiston would need only one good chance to get back on level terms.

That they didn’t get it is down to the excellent work by the Greens defence and the one shot the Blues (in orange) did have saw substitute Dominic Docherty – on for Patrick Brothers – fire into the side-netting when he really should have done better. The other Leiston substitute, the dangerous Christy Finch – who took over from Marsden – had only 10 minutes to make an impact, but James Hammond kept him quiet.

Nathaniel-George nearly got a third for Hendon, who were now happy to sit back a little and attack from slightly deeper, but his effort was blocked. A powerful run from Cole also caused panic in the Leiston defence, but the Greens, instead of shooting when the opportunity presented itself, opted to walk the ball into the net and a covering defender did enough to effect a clearance.

In stoppage time, Joseph, who had taken a real pounding from the Leiston defence, three of whom were booked for fouls (Sprague was the only Hendon player to see yellow), was taken off and Harly Wise replaced him. It was a time-wasting move that may have frustrated Leiston, but they knew in their heart of hearts that it was sound football tactics, and it worked because the final whistle went barely a minute later.

The win lifted Hendon back into the playoff positions, fourth in the table, seven points behind third-placed Margate, but with two games in hand on the Gate and saw them pass their points tally from last season. More importantly, none of the chasing pack, Leatherhead excepted, have games in hand and the Tanners need to win more than that one game to overtake Hendon.

Hendon: Lovelock, Murphy, Sprague, Tingey, Bray, Lee, Nathaniel-George, Maclaren (Cole 66), Z Joseph (Wise 90), Walker (Hammond 74), Diedhiou.

Subs: H Joseph, Muir.

Leiston: Garnham, Hammond, Dubar, Ainsley, Jefford, Bullard, Lawrence, Henderson, Blake, Marsden (Finch 80), Brothers (Trotter 73).

Subs: Gaffer, Docherty.

Attendance: 147.

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