Hendon reached the quarter-finals of the London Senior Cup with a 1-0 victory over Essex Senior League Barking at Mayesbrook Park on Tuesday night. It wasn't pretty but it was just about effective enough to set up a tie against Harrow Borough at Vale Farm.
Ryan Wharton, Jerome Federico, James Parker, Tom Davie and Greg Ngoyi were all restored to the starting line-up, while three players coming back from lengthy injury breaks - Jamie Busby, Carl McCluskey and Isaiah Rankin - were among the substitutes.
The Greens started quite brightly and James Fisher nearly opened his Hendon account when his flicked header from a Scott Cousins corner was cleared off the line by Kevin Neville. Ngoyi then almost got on the end of a through ball from Federico, but he could not take the ball around Chris Clark before it ran out of play, though the goalkeeper did get a touch to concede another corner.
This set-piece also caused consternation in the Blues defence, but they were able to clear. It set up a very quick counter-attack which ended with Chas Liddiard firing wide.
What turned out to be the only goal came in the 22nd minute. James Archer and Federico combined well down the right flank and a teasing cross was delivered. Ngoyi timed his run and leap perfectly, sending a powerful downward header past the dive of Clark and into the net.
Four minutes later, Federico again got behind Danny Makin â€“ making his 100th appearance for Barking â€“ and his low cross hit a divot just before it arrived at the foot of Ngoyi. The result was the ball skewed off Ngoyi's upper and looped over Clark and the crossbar.
In the 34th minute, Kevin Maclaren went off, to be replaced by McCluskey, his first game for more than a month. It did leave the midfield that rather lacked positional experience, with Ryan Wharton, McCluskey, Davie and Federico all in unusual roles, just behind Michael Lewis and, further forward, Ngoyi.
Although there were occasional moments on anxiety, neither Ben Jones nor Liddiard were able to escape the tight control exerted by Parker and Fisher, while Nicky Driver got nothing out of Cousins and Archer ensured John Mogege was frustrated all evening. One run from midfield by Lee Cornhill did result in what was Barking's only shot on target, but it had no power and didn't trouble Berkley Laurencin, who was on his way to an 11th clean sheet of the season, almost of which have come away from Vale Farm.
In the second half Hendon's ball retention wasn't as good as it had been before the break, but Barking quickly became frustrated and tried their luck from long-range, without having the necessary accuracy. When they attempted to put crosses into the penalty area, Laurencin was able to gather the ball under little pressure.
Lewis did have one dangerous run, which took him past three Barking players. His shot, however, didn't match the approach and Clark made a regulation save.
With 15 minutes to go, Busby and Rankin replaced Archer and Lewis, respectively. Rankin gave Ngoyi better support and he might have scored twice in his cameo role.
First a through ball from Busby seemed to have given Rankin a one-on-one with Clark, until the ball hit the wrong side of a divot and accelerated away from goal, diagonally towards the corner flag. By the time Rankin reached the ball, the immediate danger had passed.
However, when a cross from Davie was delivered to the far post, Rankin was able to rise and beat Clark with a forceful header. This time it was the crossbar which denied the former Arsenal and Bradford City man and the rebound was gathered by the goalkeeper under pressure from Ngoyi.
Things became a little heated as the match moved into stoppage time and Barking's frustration at being unable to get a clear sight of goal grew, but Hendon, in the main, kept their poise and discipline.
"This was job done," said Hendon manager Gary McCann. "It was a chance to give some minutes to players who haven't played for a while, especially Jamie Busby, Carl McCluskey and Isaiah Rankin and Rankin could have scored twice in his short time on the pitch. We also looked at a few players in different positions, such as Ryan Wharton and Tom Davie."