Hendon paid the penalty – twice – as they lost at Tiverton Town on Saturday afternoon upon a very boggy surface at the Ian Moorcroft stadium. The Yellows came into the side on a very poor run of form, without a win in ten matches whilst the Greens were looking to protect a two-match winning run.
Sam Corcoran returned to the side in place of Anis Nuur, who dropped to the bench, whilst Maurice Nugent made his first start at right-back in place of the absent Simeon Olalerin, Tafair Moore made the switch to left-back.
The first half was a near non-event with both sides struggling to come to terms with a heavy pitch that saw the ball plug into the surface, rather than bounce, and whilst no-one could fault the endeavour on show, there was precious little quality to write about – hence the brevity of this paragraph.
Quba Gordon did force a good smothering save from Lewis Williams in the Tiverton goal after meeting a corner kick at the far post with a downward header whilst the home side’s best opportunity came from an acrobatic effort from Andy Watkins – author of most of the Yellows’ best moments throughout the afternoon - went narrowly past the angle of post and crossbar.
Hendon were firmly in control of proceedings in the first twenty minutes or so of the second half. Liam Brooks was denied from a free kick by a fine save from Williams, the Tiverton goalkeeper on his way to the Man of the Match award plunged away to his left to push the ball away at full stretch.
Moments later, the ball bounced struck a yellow shirted hand inside the penalty area and the referee didn’t hesitate to point to the spot.
With regular spot kick taker Shaun Lucien still absent through injury, skipper Brooks stepped up. His effort lacked power and was directed too close to Williams who made a save low to his left. After the match Brooks admitted changing his mind, something that often proves fatal and did so on this occasion.
Maurice Nugent, who impressed on his first start for the club since his move from Galway United, then sent White scampering away on goal behind the Tiverton backline. A slightly heavy touch meant that Williams was able to make a fine save at the in-form striker’s feet and the rebound from Semakula seemed to hold up a little on the heavy surface allowing a sprawling defender to clear just in-front of the goal line. A minute or two later and Eren Kinali was denied by a fine defensive block that sent the ball spiralling over the crossbar.
Buoyed by their survival, Tiverton began to grow into the game. A powerful Watkins strike was well diverted behind by the head of Nugent, before Fred Burbidge made his first save of the afternoon on 77 minutes holding on well to a dipping strike from Dan Hayfield. Moments later Burbidge was again on hand to deny Watkins again, this time using his feet to divert the ball away and behind for a corner from a powerful angled drive.
The game entered the final of four minutes of stoppage time when a ball forward caught out the Hendon back line. Nelson Iseguan galloped onto it and sped towards goal. His progress was halted illegally by Tafari Moore’s challenge on the very edge of the penalty area. The referee immediately pointed to the spot and dismissed Moore for denying a goalscoring opportunity.
Hendon protestations that the foul was committed outside the penalty area fell on deaf ears and it was left to Hayfield, with the penultimate kick of the match, to rifle the spot kick into the bottom corner and seal three crucial points for the hosts at the very death.