Hendon started their defence of the Middlesex Senior Cup with a narrow but deserved win at a blustery Hanwell Town on Tuesday night. Both teams were guilty of not taking chances, Hendon in particular, and they probably should have held an unassailable lead by half-time.
With Under-23 game and Under-18 fixtures due later in the week, a much more experienced line-up was selected than for the Greensâ€™ exits in the League Cup and London Senior Cup. Shaun Lucien and Adam Pepara made their first Hendon starts and they were among half a dozen who came into the team, Taishan Griffith, Sean Bonnett-Johnson, Ricardo German and Gianni Crichlow being the others.
The Greens started brightly and looked likely to cause problems for the Hanwell defence every time they came forward. Lucien gave Kieron Cathline a torrid time down one flank while Crichlow asked stern questions of Andy O'Brien.
Both German and Connor Calcutt had half-chances, but they were no more than that. In the 12th minute, however, Rourke Pickford was very relieved when an angled drive from German went just past the far post with the goalkeeper little more than a spectator.
Then, in the 15th minute, Hendon got the almost inevitable breakthrough. A ball was played into the edge of the penalty area, where German controlled it, played a 1â€“2 with Calcutt and rolled the return pass beyond the advancing Pickford.
In the 24th minute German fired over from a good position and, a minute later, it was Calcutt who went close. Hanwell's best attacking moments came on the back of Hendon set-pieces, but Brown, Luke Tingey, Bonnett-Johnson and Pepara ensured the danger was fleeting and it took until the 28th minute for an attempt at goal, but the shot was well wide of the target.
The best chances still fell to Hendon and Calcutt was very unlucky when a nice piece of interplay on the edge of the penalty area was followed by a shot which crashed off the crossbar with Rourke again beaten. Lucien, German and Crichlow all had shots which either went narrowly wide of the goal or straight at the goalkeeper.
In first-half stoppage time, Crichlow teased and tormented O'Brien and had a clear sight of goal. His attempt did not require a save which was disappointing.
Hanwell were much more dangerous in the second half, with Gareth Chendlik being denied by Boness, who was quickly off his line to block the striker as he ran unchallenged towards goal. Hendon then suffered a blow when Tingey walked off the pitch after receiving treatment and Mathias Bakare came on to replace him, causing a defensive reshuffle.
Both teams had a couple of loud penalty appeals waved aside in the second half. For both teams, however, one might have had some merit - the goalkeepers making challenges which felled a striker - but not the other.
Crichlow again failed to hit the target in the 58th minute when in a very good position. But German probably should have done better when a clearance form Pickford struck him on the back.
He was quickest to react and managed to get past the goalkeeper, who was able to force German wide. Pickford did just enough because German was running out of real estate when he side-footed the ball towards to the goal and a defender, sliding in at full stretch, was able to clear off the line.
Shaquille Hippolyte-Patrick and Prince Mbengui came on for the final 20 or so minutes, taking over from Lucien and German, respectively. It did leave Calcutt a bit more isolated up front, but support from Hippolyte-Patrick or Crichlow was usually fairly quick to arrive.
Frustratingly for both teams, there were too many occasions when attacks foundered because the front-runners mistimed their breaks and were caught offside. Hendon, with the experience of Chappell and Bonnett-Johnson brought a calmness to the defence, which was reassuring as the game reached its conclusion because the Greens really did need a second goal to settle the growing nerves.
In fact, it never came. Hanwell's attacking became a little more desperate and Chendlik found himself having to bring the ball forward from deeper positions, where Mbengui and Brown were good in breaking up play.