Hendon’s unbeaten run stretched to four games when they scored twice in the second half of a feisty Christmas holiday fixture, one in which seasonal cheer was hard to find. The 2–2 draw against Harrow Borough was the least Hendon deserved as their 23-day Covid-enforced break saw them heavy-legged in a mistake-riddled opening half-hour.
The Greens’ team showed that almost all of the virus victims were able to start – except for Sam Corcoran, who was fit only for a spot on the subs’ bench. Included for the first time was new signing Christos Papakonstantinou, recently with Dorchester Town, and he came in for Eren Kinali, whose loan spell was at an end. The long-term absentees list still includes Lucas Perry, Tommy Brewer, Kieron Forbes and Shaun Lucien, all linchpins of the starting squad.
Although there was no colour clash, both teams had agreed to wear their second kits as part of charity Shelter’s No Home Kit plan to raise awareness about homelessness. It was thus odd to see Harrow in yellow and black and Hendon in pale and dark blue.
Harrow had a few players missing and were still licking their wounds after their previous game, a 7–1 drubbing at Taunton Town. The Greens actually started quite brightly and Kyren Richards forced an acrobatic save from teenaged goalkeeper Lovre Drazic.
The pitch was very damp, but in no way dangerous or unplayable, but a number of Hendon players appeared to be wearing the wrong footwear because they slipped or fell over, often under no pressure. It would prove to be a critical issue, especially in the first half.
In the 12th minute, following Hendon corner cleared to outside the penalty area, a pass from Jayden Clarke didn’t find a team-mate and George Moore was quick to latch onto the loose ball. With defenders out of position Moore advanced and shot at goal.
Fred Burbidge made a good save with his legs and the ball looped in the air going wide of the post. Unfortunately for the Dons, James EWINGTON didn’t stop his run and, with a measured side-foot, he put the ball in the back of the net before Burbidge could recover.
Suddenly, Hendon looked leggy and mistakes came often, allowing Harrow to feast on counter-attacking raids. Ewington scored four times against the Greens when a Walton Casuals player in 2018, probably should have achieved the feat in the opening half-hour.
After 18 minutes, Burbidge made an excellent double save, first denying Ewington, then Joe Otudeko, who accidentally caught him with his boot as he tried to reach the rebound. Six minutes later, from another slip by a defender, Ewington saw his shot tipped onto the top of the crossbar.
With half an hour gone, Hendon won another corner which was headed clear. The ball was then passed towards Tamari Moore who was breaking down the left side in plenty of space.
Unfortunately, he slipped over and suddenly Otudeko was in clear space breaking towards the Hendon goal. Moore got back to his feet but couldn’t catch the attacker, who had the ever-willing Ewington and Leo Donnellan in support with Jayden Clarke and Simeon Olarerin desperately trying to intervene.
When the ball came to him EWINGTON steadied himself and fired past Burbidge to make it 2–0. Hendon were shell-shocked and Harrow could have added to their lead, but Quba Gordon and Christian Smith ensured any attempts at goal were from long range.
Greens boss Lee Allinson didn’t reveal exactly what he told his players in the dressing room at half-time, but it would probably have focused on cutting out mistakes. He clearly had faith in the team because he made no changes for the second half and the team responded superbly.
Ten minutes into the half, a through ball released Joe White, who got the better of veteran defender Shaun Preddie, who injured his hamstring trying to keep up with the forward. WHITE, now clear on goal, steadied himself and confidently knocked the ball beyond Drazic into the net.
Preddie could not continue and he was replaced by Lewis Cole. Five minutes later, Hendon made what would be their only change, Riccardo Alexander-Greenaway taking over from Richards.
The game changed three minutes later. A Harrow corner bounced around the penalty area and reached Hamza Semakula who tried to control the ball, but it bounced off his hand or arm. The referee was unsighted and his assistant was unsure how the ball had reached there, so didn’t signal.
Hendon broke downfield and won a free-kick near to the Harrow penalty area, at which point the referee was asked by three or four yellow-shirted players how he had not given a penalty at the other end. The free-kick didn’t work particularly well, but Semakula then slipped the ball into White.
James Taylor took over the marshalling responsibility for White and his first action was to go to ground, trying to dispossess him. To reach the ball, however, Taylor had knock over White and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot, a decision no Harrow player contested.
Liam BROOKS stepped and confidently smashed the ball into the net to level the scores. With more than 20 minutes remaining, the match was in the balance, and the impetus was with Hendon.
Sadly the final quarter, whilst entertaining for neutral fans, rather lacked significant quality. Both teams had chances, Hendon more than Harrow, but neither goalkeeper was forced to work too hard to keep the ball out of the goal.
The referee, however, was very, very busy. In the 69th minute, a series of challenges rained in from both sides, all earnest attempts to win the ball, but when a free-kick was awarded, three players were lying on the ground. After a consultation with his assistant, the referee went up to Moore and showed him a straight red card, apparently for an off-the-ball incident with Alexander-Greenaway.
Before play resumed, Gordon was also shown a yellow card. Hendon, however, had almost no time to take advantage of playing with an extra man.
Once the ball was back in play, Alexander-Greenaway made a lunging challenge for the ball and won it cleanly, though he clearly left the ground. The referee instantly awarded a free-kick and the only delay in the red card being shown to the Hendon substitute was the time he took to remove it from his pocket.
Almost all of Hendon’s attacking players had chances to score a third and probably winning goal, but the accuracy was not there. White went closest with a searing drive, but it flashed wide of the far post, while Clarke’s effort was rather scuffed.
At the other end, Harrow had a free-kick in the last five minutes, but the Hendon defence was equal to the danger.
Given all the stoppages in the second half, only three additional minutes seemed a little short, but there was every chance that another flashpoint might have resulted in more cards being shown and neither manager will have wanted to have a number of players suspended.