Hendon can’t quite force FA Cup replay

HENDON narrowly failed to force a replay as Chelmsford clung on to a 3-2 lead to end the Dons’ FA Cup run in Saturday’s first round tie.

Jamie Busby twice reduced the deficit after the Blue Square South side had a man sent off, but it was not enough to take Gary McCann’s team into the second round draw.

“I don’t think we played anywhere near as well as we could,” said the Hendon boss. “But we went toe-to-toe with a top team in the league above and lost only narrowly.

“It took us a while to get into the game, but we never stopped battling and it speaks volumes for the team that our commitment was there for the full game and we nearly got a result.”

Chelmsford, unbeaten at home this season, quickly showed they were a cut above any of the Greens’ previous FA Cup opponents as Matthew Lock’s 30-yard effort whistled just over Berkley Laurencin’s goal.

And the home fans were celebrating the opening goal after just eight minutes as Anthony Cook and Billy Bricknell combined to set up Sam Higgins, who beat Craig Vargas and fired inside the near post.

With Aaron Morgan virtually a lone striker, Hendon struggled to make much impression, although it needed a combination of Mark Haines and goalkeeper James Pullen to keep out Busby’s effort.

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And Chelmsford doubled their lead when Cook’s cross found Bricknell and, although his first attempt was blocked by Vargas, the City player reacted quickly to slam the ball home.

At the other end, Vargas had a header saved by Pullen, but the nature of the game was changed just before half-time when Morgan chased a short back-header from Sami El-Abd.

Pullen’s challenge, feet first, cut a gash in Morgan’s thigh and the referee showed the goalkeeper a straight red card, with Busby firing the spot-kick past replacement Ashley Harrison.

Hendon, with the returning Brian Haule replacing Morgan, enjoyed more possession after the break, but Chelmsford were happy to cede territory and wait for an opening.

It came midway through the second half, as Cook collected the ball 30 yards out and rifled an early shot which flew just inside Laurencin’s near post to make it 3-1.

Hendon halved the gap again with 11 minutes remaining when Lee O’Leary’s pass found Busby racing through the middle to lift the ball over the advancing Harrison.

With the visitors piling forward in search of an equaliser, gaps began to appear at the back, but Jonathan Coke’s superb goal-line clearance from Lock kept the contest alive.

Chelmsford were hanging on as Haule fired into the side netting before Guentchev’s effort drifted just wide in the fifth minute of added time to end Hendon’s hopes.

Hendon: Laurencin, Coke, Cousins, Vargas (Peacock 38), Parker, K Maclaren (Wishart 76), Guentchev, O’Leary, Morgan (Haule 43), C Maclaren, Busby.