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Hendon held to draw at Frome

PUBLISHED: 12:00 12 August 2018 | UPDATED: 08:30 13 August 2018

Hendon boss James Gray during his time in charge of St Albans City Picture: BOB WALKLEY

Hendon boss James Gray during his time in charge of St Albans City Picture: BOB WALKLEY

Robert Walkley

Evo-Stik South Premier South: Frome Town 1 Hendon 1

Hendon were denied an opening day victory at Frome Town in their first ever Southern League (officially the Evo-Stik League South Division Premier) fixture by a goal in the final two minutes of normal time. As almost every Hendon fan had admitted before the game that a draw was a good result, so there should be little disappointment the point was achieved … except there was disappointment, probably because of the lateness of the goal.

The Hendon line-up contained three players who had appeared for the Greens prior to this season: Laste Dombaxe, 8 games in 2016–17, Howard Hall, 42 games in 2012–13, and Luke Tingey, 113 games 2015–18; the other 11 who played were all making their debuts. There was also a former Hendon man in the Frome line-up, Darren Behcet, who played half a dozen times in 2016–17 but has moved to the south-west and now works at Yeovil Town’s youth goalkeeping development facility.

For the record, when Hendon played Slough Town in their opening game of the 1994–95 season, 10 out of 11 starters and two out of three substitutes (one unused) were debutants. Starter Uche Egbe and sub Bradley Anderson, who had played eight games the previous season, were the two former Dons in Mick Browne’s team.

Frome Town also have a new management team and an almost new squad – and their cause was not helped by the fact that three of their holdovers were serving suspensions from last season. This probably goes a long way to explaining why the match was so disjointed.

There was certainly no lack of effort from the two teams, but both still need a good few weeks before the management teams know exactly what they have got and the best ways of getting their charges to play to their optimum style. The Robins relied on quick balls over the top of the Hendon defence, but Kane Simpson and Dan Cottle could not get the better of Hall, Lee Chappell, Junior Osborne and Guri Demuria, or, as often happened, went too soon and were caught offside.

Neither goalkeeper was called in action – other than dealing with crosses – in the first 35 minutes, though Danny Boness looked grateful to see a sliced Osborne clearance fly just over the angle of far post and crossbar. Simpson then fired a shot which went close to the target, but Boness did not need to make a save.

Boness then made a comfortable save to keep out a Cottle shot before, in the 40th minute, Simpson put the ball in the net, but as the flag had gone up and the whistle followed shortly after, Frome cheers were stilled at birth. Hendon’s only noteworthy attempt was a Chappell header which was just off target.

Mention must be made of the weather. Arriving at the ground, there was high cloud; as the teams finished their warm-ups, drizzle started; at kick-off time, the drizzle was harder and persistent; by half-time the wind had got up and the rain was not abating; in the second, it just got worse and worse.

With the steep slope in their favour, Hendon attacked more in the second half and the arrival of Taishan Griffith for Rene Howe – Stephane Ngamvoulou had earlier taken over from Prince Mbengui – saw the Greens look much more creative.

In the 63rd minute, Griffith and Dombaste did well down the right flank and the ball came to Ricardo German. The striker ran in on goal, but Behcet made a good low block and the rebound favoured Frome.

Six minutes later, however, a Tingey long throw caused panic in the home defence. Griffith drilled a ball across goal and Kris Miller’s attempted block sent the ball only to German’s feet.

The striker still had plenty of work to do, controlling the ball, setting himself up and then firing past Behcet, who was quickly narrowing the angle. GERMAN, however, had the skill to curl the ball over the goalkeeper and three defenders and score as the ball kissed the underside of the crossbar.

Miller’s next intervention, from another low Griffth cross, nearly gave the unmarked Cole Brown a debut goal. This time, unfortunately for Hendon, Miller found the ball sticking between his legs before trickling into the grateful Behcet’s arms.

With 15 minutes to go, Dylan Kearney replaced Cole, but he never got a chance to show what he could do in a dangerous attacking position. Frome looked as if they had rather run out of ideas, but they continued to press forward with greater urgency. A couple of shots flew harmlessly wide of the target and blue-shirted players made some brave blocks.

However, with a couple of minutes of normal time remaining, Frome forced a corner. The delivery was into the danger area, and Hendon failed on two occasions to deal with it.

Another shot came in, a blue shirt attempted to make a block, fans behind the goal screamed the ball was over the line … and the assistant referee agreed, raising his flag. The referee awarded the goal and, it must be said, there seemed to be little or no protest from any Hendon player.

It was a hugely disappointing end to the game for Hendon, but if the truth be told, a draw was undoubtedly the right result for both teams.

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