Southern League: Hendon 2 Merthyr Town 1
PUBLISHED: 07:58 09 December 2019 | UPDATED: 07:58 09 December 2019
Hendon produced a very confident performance in beating in-form Merthyr Town at Silver Jubilee Park on Saturday but remain in the bottom three, within a point of Yate Town.
Eddie Oshodi, a former England C international, was the only debutant for Hendon, but there were other changes to the team which had beaten AFC Dunstable in the League Cup in midweek.
Tom Smith, Keiron Forbes and Luke Brooks came in for Romario Jonas, Joe Felix, Sergio Manesio and Kam English, with the first three joined by Isasc Galliford and Reece Mitchell on the bench.
Merthyr fans came to London wearing their Christmas jumpers and looking to have a party on and off the pitch. It looked like they were going to get it because in the second minute Ian Traylor fired narrowly over the crossbar and, a couple of minutes later, Gethyn Hill turned past Oshodi and was taken to ground.
The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot and Hill picked himself up to take the kick. But it was fairly straight and although Rihards Matrevics had started to dive, the tall goalkeeper was able to block the ball with his legs and the Martyrs couldn't capitalise on the rebound.
All the pressure was coming from Merthyr and Jamie Veale went close with a shot before Hill again found himself thwarted by Matrevics, who made a sprawling low save, pushing the ball aside.
Another chance came moments later, but Ben Swallow lifted the ball over the bar from 20 yards.
In the 20th minute, Traylor angled a shot just under the crossbar but it was easy meat for Matrevics. Three minutes later, Veale went down in the penalty area, but this time claims for a penalty were rejected.
Gradually Hendon started to get into the game with Kingsley Eshun a willing and powerful runner and Brooks rapier-like with his incursions.
Shaun Lucien started to look dangerous out wide while behind them the prompting came from Forbes and Solomon Sambou, who began to take control of midfield,
In the 34th minute, Hendon's burgeoning pressure brought rewards as Brooks took the ball just inside the Martyrs' half and ran towards the danger area, playing a superb diagonal pass out to the left side of the penalty area. Running onto the ball was Lucien, who dinked the ball between the legs of the advancing Alex Harris and into the net.
Suddenly the impetus changed and it was Hendon who took control as Sambou and Forbes prompted cleverly from midfield, giving the Martyrs a stern examination as the Greens forwards looked to add to their lead.
A free-kick after 42 minutes was missed by two Merthyr defenders and Oshodi got his head to the ball. Harris looked alarmed, then relieved as the ball went inches outside the post.
Two minutes later the goalkeeper had no luck when Eshun was the victim of a high challenge from Jarrad Wright, who caught his leg.
Once again, the referee immediately pointed to the penalty spot - without complaint for the defender. Brooks took responsibility for the spot-kick and although Harris got a good hand on the ball, he could only push it off the inside of the post and by the time he regathered the ball it was over the goalline.
A 2-0 half-time lead was certainly not fair on the balance of play, but no one from Hendon was complaining.
But after a first half of great pace, the second was much cagier, especially after a stunning strike brought the Martyrs back into the contest.
A left-wing cross was headed half clear by Smith, but it fell invitingly for Kieran Lewis and his volley was struck perfectly to give Matrevics absolutely no chance as the ball flew into the net.
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Hendon responded with a couple of forays, but they found recent Martyrs signing and former Barnet centre-back Ismail Yakubu in imperious form.
The 34-year-old made a number of key interventions although he did pick up a couple of head injuries from aerial collisions and finished the game in a numberless shirt, with his original numbe four jersey having been bloodied.
The Greens made the first of their changes, replacing Forbes with Felix, and the substitute almost made his introduction a dramatic one as he drove a shot which beat Harris, but didn't dip until it had cleared the crossbar.
At the other end, the Hendon defence looked sturdy as Luke Tingey, Joe Howe, Oshodi and Smith kept the Martyrs forwards at bay and Tommy Brewer, playing in front of the back four was calmness personified.
Matrevics was not called upon much, but his organisational talent made sure his team-mates were always in the right position to deal with any imminent danger.
There were still a few chances, but nothing clear-cut although substitute Owain Jones did have one shooting opportunity, but failed to find the target and the ball thudded off the railings behind the goal.
Hendon also had openings, notably a header from Tingey which went straight at Harris. The goalkeeper was discomforted by a number of crosses and some of his punching rather lacked authority.
Two minutes from time, another Merthyr substitute Corey Jenkins did well down the left side and delivered a teasing cross. Hill rose for the ball but it was just too high for him to get anything more than a glancing touch and it rolled wide for a goal kick.
Almost immediately, Galliford, who returned to Hemel Hempstead Town at the end of his loan period on Sunday, came on for Brooks. But there was then a moment of danger for the Greens in their penalty area when the third Martyrs substitute, Ryan Prosser, got a shooting chance.
He could not get the ball off as Smith made a superb intervention and the centre-back was quickly back on his feet to head a cross clear.
During six minutes of stoppage time Manesio came on for Lucien as the Greens looked to break up play. Merthyr then forced a corner for which Harris joined the attack in a very crowded penalty area.
Hendon won the ball and Sambou launched the ball downfield to force a corner, but there wasn't enough time for the set-piece to be taken.
A delighted Hendon boss Lee Allinson told the club's internet TV channel: "I am over the moon with the result. They were the best team we have played since I joined the club.
"I am shattered, the coaching staff are shattered, my players are shattered. I am sure the supporters are shattered too.
"I had heard reports that they were the best team at starting the game in the league and for the first 20 minutes they battered us. But we weathered the storm.
"I dropped Keiron Forbes a bit deeper and he and Tommy Brewer did a good job in stopping them. I thought our goalkeeper Tom and Eddie were immense.
"Then we got our first goal, and later the penalty. After that I didn't want the half to end. I thought we could have scored more goals.
"In the dressing room, I warned the team about them early in the second half, and they scored their goal - what a goal it was. But after that, I thought we were outstanding.
"We put our bodies on the line, but we had a couple of chances and so did they. In fact I thought we might have been able to put the game to bed."
Hendon: Matrevics, Tingey, Howe, Brewer, T Smith, Oshodi, Lucien (Manesio 90), Forbes (Felix 70), Eshun, Sambou, Brooks (Galliford 89). Unused subs: Mitchell, Jonas.