Hendon striker Smith eyes title after hitting 20-goal mark against Wingate
PUBLISHED: 14:54 30 December 2014
Hendon striker Leon Smith scored a brace of goals in Saturday’s 3-1 win over his former club Wingate & Finchley, taking his tally to 20 – and his target for the new year is automatic promotion.
The three points gained in the derby triumph against the Blues lifted the Greens to third place in the Ryman League Premier Division. And, with Margate and Maidstone United only managing draws on the same day, Smith is confident about pushing them close for the title.
Smith said: “The league is open for the first time in how many years? Anybody can win the league and anybody can get into the play-offs.
“Margate and Maidstone both dropped points and we got the win. We’ve got two games in hand on Margate, who are top of the table, and if we win them anything is possible.”
Smith’s second goal of the game against his old team saw him bring down the ball inside the penalty area before volleying it into the roof of the net.
He celebrated by sliding on his knees in front of the Hendon fans behind the goal and said: “I couldn’t help myself.
“Someone just told me that I’ve got 20 goals now. I’ve never got that many goals before Christmas before.
“I prefer to play in the middle. But playing out wide, especially on the left with me being right footed, I can cut in or play off Kezie Ibe and make the runs in behind him.”
With Hendon leading 2-0 at half-time, Wingate sent on former Reading academy player Karl Oliyide, who was a constant threat down the left wing – and that was no surprise to Smith, who believes the youngster has a bright future ahead of him.
“In the first half we played better and obviously scored two goals. In the second half, they came out fighting,” said the Dons striker. “Young Karl Oliyide came off the bench for them and scored a brilliant goal.
“I’d seen him when I was just leaving Wingate and he will get a move – 100 per cent he will get a move. I was surprised that he was on the bench, to be honest. He gave them some life when he came on and scored a good goal.”
Hendon grabbed their vital third goal from the penalty spot when Kezie Ibe was pulled back by Wingate captain Marc Weatherstone, who was shown a red card.
Smith got hold of the ball as he eyed a hat-trick but, in the end, gave it to Sam Murphy, who tucked the spot kick away.
“I fancied it at first but Murphs has scored his last two penalties so it is only right that he takes them,” said Smith.
Murphy went on to miss a second penalty after Ahmet Rifat was sent off for a tackle on Peter Dean.
Meanwhile, Hendon boss Gary McCann was full of praise for Smith. He said: “Since Leon signed for us his goal-to-game ratio is frightening. I think his all-round game has improved since he’s been with us – mainly off the ball, and he has scored goals with it.”