Bostik Premier: Tooting & Mitcham 0 Hendon 2
PUBLISHED: 10:17 19 March 2018 | UPDATED: 10:17 19 March 2018
Hendon, thanks to goals late in each half, moved to within five points of the top of the Bostik League Premier Division with victory over struggling Tooting & Mitcham United on Saturday.
On a freezing cold, windy afternoon, made worse by snow falling for much of the game, the difference between the teams was the Greens’ ability to punish defensive lapses from the Terrors, while the hosts rarely made Tom Lovelock work hard.
Michael Corcoran made his first start since New Year’s Day after his four-minute cameo as a substitute at Merstham on Tuesday, replacing Zak Joseph, while another change saw Arthur Lee come in for Luke Tingey.
Joseph and Tingey were joined on the bench by William Murphy, Casey Maclaren and Dave Smalley, the latter two being unused.
It was not a great game, unsurprisingly given the weather and pitch conditions, with clear-cut chances at a premium.
Goalscoring has been a problem for the Terrors, after netting 120 in their promotion campaign last season, but conceding not so, as a Division-worst 89 gives proof.
And it was easy to see why as risky passes near to their penalty area created pressure on a number of occasions.
Ollie Bennett had the Terrors’ first half-chance after 10 minutes, a shooting opportunity from 20 yards drilled at Lovelock, who made a comfortable save.
Hendon’s response was an audacious 45-yard lobbed shot from Corcoran, who had spotted Matte Pearson some distance of his line.
The goalkeeper back-pedalled furiously and probably had the ball covered as it dipped towards the crossbar, but did not need to make to a save as the ball was about a foot too high.
Former Hendon striker Reis Stanislaus, a recent arrival at Tooting after taking a few months away from football, had probably the best Terrors chance of the afternoon in the 26th minute as he beat the Hendon offside trap and had only Lovelock to beat as he bore down on goal.
Although he was still more than 25 yards from goal, Stanislaus decided not to take on Lovelock and tried a lob instead. The effort was on target, but Stanislaus did not get the ball high enough because Lovelock, at full stretch, caught the ball.
Tooting’s runners were also guilty of being over-eager as James Hammond, Lee, Rian Bray and Harly Wise kept their defensive line pretty well disciplined.
The worst example was a break from midfield by Bennett, but he stopped when he watched Isaiah Jones sprint into the clear – at least 15 yards offside. When the pass from Bennett to Jones was made, the midfielder was still a couple of yards too far downfield.
Matt Ball fired over the crossbar, again from long range, before Lovelock again handled a shot from distance, this time from Daniel Clements.
These were the only shots at goal in the opening 40 minutes, though Tooting also had moments of danger with play out wide, but the final ball into the penalty area found either a Hendon defender or went out of play.
Both teams had penalty claims waved away as Ashley Nathaniel-George appeared to be clipped by Juevan Spencer as he cut into the penalty area. Contact may have minimal, but Spencer got none of the ball and a little bit of the Hendon player.
Tooting’s claim looked more clear-cut, as a clumsy challenge on Bennett sent him to the ground, again the man brought down with the ball untouched. On neither occasion, however, did either team protest about the non-awards.
In the 41st minute, Clements found himself with another shooting opportunity but, from a slightly acute angle, his drive flew past Lovelock and wide of the far post.
Niko Muir and Josh Walker were keen to close down Tooting defenders when they tried to play the ball out of defence and in the 43rd minute this perseverance got its reward.
Olusanya Fadahunsi tried to pass to Matt Drage from the left-back position, but Walker intercepted it and suddenly Hendon had a 3-on-2.
With Muir to his left Walker shaped to shoot, but then spotted Nathaniel-George in space and he went past Spencer, who tried to get back to defend, and shot across Pearson into the bottom corner.
The weather got bleaker in the second half as the snow strengthened, but Tooting came out determined to blow Hendon away. For all their pressure, however, with Dave Diedhiou helping to bolster the Greens’ rearguard, the Terrors could not turn their pressure into something tangible.
Midway through the second half, there was a flashpoint when Jones attacked down the right flank. Corcoran came across and committed a foul that merited at least a yellow card.
In other circumstances, Corcoran might have been dismissed, but the challenge was more cynical than violent and was almost on the touchline. Incensed Tooting players took issue with the midfielder and it appeared that Dominic Griffiths shoved Corcoran to the ground, two-handed.
When the dust had settled, Corcoran saw yellow as did a bemused Jones in what appeared to be a case of mistaken identity. Hendon’s reaction was, within five minutes, to send on Tingey to replace Corcoran, who probably was on a limited game time plan after his long lay-off.
Within two minutes, Tingey came close to doubling the Hendon lead with a shot from the edge of the penalty area. Pearson, at full stretch, would not have reached the ball if it had been just inside the post, but the ball went wide of the target.
Tooting’s response was a double switch, Elijah Simpson and Chace O’Neill taking over from Bennett and Clements. Joseph then replaced Walker to give the Terrors a different type of defensive problem and they didn’t make a good job of it.
It started on the Tooting right side, where Spencer and Drage got into a bit of a tangle trying to keep the ball away from Muir. Quick to spot the possibilities, Ball nipped in and took the ball away from Tooting, just outside their penalty area.
Ball could have tried a shot himself, but saw Joseph was in a better position. The pass was accurate as was Joseph’s shot and he had his 15th goal of the season.
More importantly, Hendon were in their comfort zone. Elijah Simpson came on for Stanislaus, who had a difficult return against his former club, and Hendon made their final change in the last minute of normal time with William Murphy replacing Ball.
In stoppage time, Tooting forced a succession of corners, but none of their set-pieces came close to bringing them a goal.
Hendon, now seven points off the top after Dulwich’s win on Sunday, are set to visit Staines on Tuesday.
Hendon: Lovelock, Hammond, Lee, Diedhiou, Bray, Wise, Nathaniel-George, Corcoran (Tingey 69), Walker (Z Joseph 79), Muir, Ball (W Murphy 89). Unused subs: Maclaren, Smalley.