Hendon fought back from 2–0 down to beat Herne Bay 3–2 in a thrilling FA Cup third round qualifying tie at Silver Jubilee Park on Saturday afternoon. The Greens are now just one win away from the first round proper, when clubs from Leagues One and Two enter the competition – National League clubs enter at the fourth round qualifying.
Looking to take Hendon’s unbeaten run to six games, there were a couple of changes to the team which had done so well in the midweek goalless draw with Chesham United, Tarik Moore-Azille and Rohdell Gordon coming in for Josh Dawodu and Bobson Bawling, both of whom would make telling contributions off the substitutes bench.
The match kicked off more than half an hour late as the Bay were caught out by planned roadworks on the M2. They arrived without three key players, midfield playmaker Hassan Jalloh (one of the tormentors-in-chief when Hayes & Yeading knocked out Hendon in the 2019–20 FA Cup, and who has returned to Hayes and Yeading for his fourth spell), former Hendon and Guyana international Marcel Barrington (injured) and golden boot-winner Zak Ansah (unavailable).
Two teams who have never played each other before, both in their division’s relegation zone, with a massive prize at stake for the winners and endless thoughts of what might have been for the losers was the perfect recipe for a cagey start. What the fans were treated to was a fantastic opening 12 minutes which might have realised a 3–2 Hendon lead, and that was just from the very good chances the teams created.
After 45 seconds, Gio Palmer charged down the left wing, cut inside and rolled ball to Liam Brooks. It was a gilt-edged chance, but Jordan Perrin, having committed to go across his goal, stopped quickly to deflect the ball wide of the post with his boot.
In the sixth minute, Hendon tried to let a ball bounce out of play, but Kymani Thomas reached the ball and knocked it back to Rory Smith, who quickly passed to Mason Saunders-Henry. Taking the ball outside the penalty area, SAUNDERS-HENRY worked himself an angle and curled a delicious shot over Marcin Brzozowski which dipped just under the crossbar.
Four minutes later, Gordon found himself with a shooting chance, but Perrin was quickly off his line to make a block, again with his legs.
In the 11th minute, Perrin cleared downfield and Tommy Brewer and Moore-Azille left the ball to each other and Smith pounced. With the two defenders slow to react, SMITH burst between them, controlled the ball, looked up and rolled it into the net.
Hendon could not have made a worse start and there was a pall of gloom around SJP, even though it was clear that neither defence looked remotely like being able to stop the other team’s attack. From the resumption, Gordon, Joe White and Robbie Buchanan linked up to open the Herne Bay defence, but Perrin came to the rescue for a third time to keep out White.
In the next few minutes, it nearly got even worse for Hendon as Thomas twice went close to a third Herne Bay goal. His first attempt was a curled shot over Brzozowski, but the ball bounced off the top of the bar and rolled away for a throw-in by the corner flag; his next shot forced the big goalkeeper into making a full stretch finger-tip save.
The game turned in first half stoppage time, after White was on the end of a sweet move involving Buchanan, Solomon Sambou, Brewer, Gordon, Arthur Iontton and Diedhiou, but the striker’s shot from less than 10 yards was blocked by Daniel Johnson with Perrin beaten. The ball went out for a corner, where Moore-Azille was forced to the ground by Keano Robinson.
The official had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot, and showing a yellow card to the offender – the third Bay player to be cautioned (Brewer was Hendon’s only first-half booking). With what must have been enormous pressure on his shoulders, WHITE showed none of it, smacking the ball into corner opposite to the one Perrin dived towards.
Both teams made changes at half-time and they undoubtedly helped to change the game. The unwell Moore-Azille was replaced by Dawodu, while Herne Bay removed Chris Edwards – booked in the first half – and sent on Keiron Campbell.
Hendon’s reshuffle saw Diedhiou move across to partner Brewer, with Dawodu going to full-back. The Bay, meanwhile, weakened themselves significantly and the Greens took full toll, running rampant down both wings and through the middle.
Six minutes after the restart, Gordon curled over a cross which beat Perrin but the ball came down on top of the net. It was a warning that Herne Bay failed to heed.
After 53 minutes, Iontton, unchallenged, headed the ball 20 yards forward to White, who flicked the ball into the path of Brooks. GORDON ran in support of Brooks, took the pass, steadied himself and knocked the ball past the advancing Perrin for his first Hendon goal.
In truth, the writing was on the wall for the Bay. They couldn’t get the ball in attacking positions and were forced to defend for long periods. It was really a matter of when the next Hendon goal would arrive, not if.
After an hour, both teams made their second changes, Herne Bay removing their most influential creative player, Thomas, and inserting defensive-minded midfielder Laurence Harvey; Hendon meanwhile went for the more direct Bobson Bawling in place of Buchanan.
The Greens’ changed proved decisive barely five minutes later. Diedhiou won a header just inside the Hendon half and found Dawodu, who wriggled around a Herne Bay player on the touchline sent the ball towards the corner flag.
Jack Parter tried to shield the ball out for a goal-kick, but Bawling outmuscled him and kept the ball in play, sending it to the feet of White, who had, again, lost his marker. White looked up, saw Sambou running into space just inside the penalty area, rolled it into the midfielder’s path. SAMBOU, without breaking stride, slammed the ball in the bottom corner.
Surprisingly, that was pretty much the end of the meaningful action. Frank Keita took over from Brooks for the last 10 or so minutes, but Herne Bay, albeit reluctantly, seemed to accept their fate. They did force a couple of corners but Brzozowski, Brewer and Diedhiou were largely untroubled, while Gordon, Bawling, White and Keita probed without getting any good scoring opportunities.