Hendon and Chippenham Town will have to do it again on Tuesday night after a pulsating afternoon of entertainment in the Emirates FA Cup fourth round qualifying tie at a sunny and breezy Silver Jubilee Park on Saturday afternoon. The Greens fans left the ground with very mixed emotions: there was the great pride in their team, which had come back from being completely outplayed in the first half, but also the realisation that they could and probably should have won the game.
Will Henry’s penalty save of Liam Brooks’ second spot kick of the half in the 92nd minute, with his team down to 10 men. had denied the Greens a stunning 3–2 victory.
Josh Dawodu, Bobson Bawling and Keiron Forbes, the three used substitutes in this match, were the three starters from the FA Trophy defeat against Binfield to miss out, being replaced by Frank Keita and well-again Solomon Sambou and Tarik Moore-Azille. Among the others on the bench for Hendon were Shaun Lucien and Luca Allinson, the former having re-signed after missing more than six months with injury.
In truth, Hendon were very fortunate that they were even in the game at half-time as Chippenham had completely dominating the opening 45 minutes. The Greens could not cope with the Bluebirds’ speed of thought and movement and were never able to even attempt a shot at Henry’s goal. The goalkeeper’s only real action of the half had been to dive out and gather a low cross before it could reach Brooks.
The Bluebirds had made slow starts in their two previous games, coming from behind at half-time to beat Metropolitan Police in the FA Cup two weeks earlier and needing a 97th minute equaliser to get a point from their visit to managerless St Albans City seven days later.
This was not the case here. After threatening without any end product, Chippenham made the breakthrough in the 12th minute. Jordan Young made a good run in the Hendon half and passed to Harvey Greenslade, who delivered a teasing cross which Craig FASANMADE finished with a superb, powerful header having made a perfectly-timed late run into the danger area.
Young’s trickery brought the second goal, too, just three minutes later, when his mazy run was stopped illegally by Gio Palmer, earning the full-back a caution. Having sized up the defensive wall, YOUNG struck his free-kick past the line of green short and ball went past the unsighted Marcin Brzozowski on its way into the net.
Just before the half-hour, Hendon conceded a free-kick 40 yards from their goal and this time it was Joe Hanks who took responsibility for the set-piece. His strike was powerful, true and swerving in the wind, but Brzozowski was equal to it, making a fine save.
Following this escape, Joe White was injured in an aerial challenge on half-way and required lengthy treatment. He tried to continue but, with 33 minutes on the clock, the Greens’ leading scorer with eight goals this season, he limped off and Bawling replaced him.
In the three minutes before half-time, both Moore-Azille and Palmer had to be both very alert and careful as they made desperate challenges to stop Chippenham from adding to their lead. That said, Hanks really should have got off a shot before Moore-Azille’s intervention and Palmer made sure Fasanmade didn’t get a clear chance to shoot.
Hendon started the second half more positively, but it was hard to see where or how they were going back into the game. The answer, wind-assisted, came in the 51st minute.
A hopeful ball down the slope confused two Bluebirds defenders, who collided with each other. Keita took control of the ball and his run was halted illegally by Luke Russe right on the edge of the penalty area.
The referee immediately pointed to the penalty spot, but then spent a significant time discussing exactly where the foul had taken place with his assistant. After what seemed an age, the referee confirmed his decision and cautioned Russe.
All this time, Liam Brooks stood on the edge of the penalty area – the ball already on the spot – waiting for the chance to get the second goal of his second Hendon spell. When the whistle blew, BROOKS ran up and confidently smashed the ball past Henry.
Suddenly, Chippenham didn’t trust themselves or their situation and Hendon, for the first time in the game, were on top. Bawling and Rohdell Gordon enjoyed space out wide, while Keita, moving forward from partnering Arthur Iontton in midfield, became increasingly dangerous as Brooks’ strike partner.
In the 58th minute, the Greens won a free-kick in a dangerous position just to the right of centre, half a dozen yards outside the penalty area. Gordon struck the ball sweetly and it flew past Henry before crashing against the crossbar.
The ball bounced down, wide of the far post, and BROOKS was first to react, striking a spectacular swerving shot that flew just inside the opposite post. It was a magnificent piece of technique from the striker and it brought the Greens level.
Now the Bluebirds realised they were in a fight and they hit back very well. Brzozowski was quickly off his line to block Alfie d’Abadia, who was clear in on goal, and the goalkeeper made two good saves in a minute, denying first Young then d’Abadia.
With 16 minutes to go, Chippenham were unlucky twice in 15 seconds as Young hit a post with a free-kick and, on the rebound, d’Abadia watched in horror as his strike cannoned off the top of the crossbar before being cleared to safety by Dave Diedhiou.
The Greens suffered another injury blow when Palmer limped off after 75 minutes and Dawodu replaced him. He was cautioned for a foul within a minute but the free-kick came to nothing.
Play switched to the other end and Tommy Brewer and Brooks were twice denied in a goalmouth skirmish which ended with Henry almost sitting on the ball. Brewer then saw a header saved by Henry, who cleared downfield, forcing a Chippenham corner, from which Will Tizzard headed over when he was all alone 10 yards out.
Forbes replaced Sambou with a couple of minutes of normal time and he was almost in trouble as soon as he got on. Hendon were awarded a free-kick in the centre circle and as Forbes ran to get the ball he pushed over a Chippenham player who had stepped across his path.
The veteran midfielder was perhaps fortunate that the referee had seen the push as instinctive protection rather than an aggressive act and received only a lecture.
In the second of five minutes of stoppage time, another catastrophic moment of confusion almost cost Chippenham everything. As the ball rolled away from two defenders in the penalty area, Keita pounced but before he could shoot at goal, Will Richards – the only starting player from the FA Cup tie between the two teams four years and five days ago – pulled him back.
This penalty was a much easier call and as Richards had denied an obvious goal-scoring opportunity without attempting to play the ball, there was no double jeopardy in the sanction and the referee had no hesitation in producing a red card. A crestfallen Richards made the lonely, long, slow trudge up the slope to the dressing rooms, aware that his foul might have denied the Bluebirds a third-ever FA Cup competition proper appearance.
There was no doubt that Brooks would take this penalty too, especially as first-choice taker White was off the pitch. He ran up and struck the ball well, but probably not as well as his first kick and Henry, guessing correctly, made a fine save. Unfortunately for Hendon, this time there was no green shirt on hand to reach the rebound.
Two minutes later the final whistle was blown and both sets of fans could take a breath.