Bostik Premier: Hendon 4 Worthing 3
PUBLISHED: 19:18 08 April 2018 | UPDATED: 19:18 08 April 2018
Hendon now have their play-off fate in their own hands after a pulsating defeat of Worthing at Silver Jubilee Park on Saturday afternoon.
The Greens never trailed, but it took an injury-time winner from Ashley Nathaniel-George to claim maximum points.
Luke Tingey came in for the suspended Dave Diedhiou, while Josh Walker started ahead of Dan Uchechi, who dropped to the bench.
Casey Maclaren and Cameron Currie joined Uchechi, Matt Ball and Sam Murphy on the bench as Riccardo Alexander-Greenaway dropped out of the 16 who were in the Easter Monday squad at Wingate & Finchley.
This was a match in which all four Hendon goals were scored by strikers who had already notched at least 10 times this season.
Not only that, the four front men also had assists for three of the goals and the other was a penalty.
Worthing, however, must be given massive credit for their contribution to a fantastic afternoon of football.
They more than matched the Greens in attacking verve, but they were authors of their own downfall with kamikaze defending, especially when they played the ball out of defence in the opening half hour.
In the fifth minute, a wayward pass was knocked towards a red shirt, who was not expecting it. The result was a hurried back-pass and the ball rolled out for a Hendon corner.
The ball was half-cleared and returned into the danger area by James Hammond. Hendon’s Jake Eggleton was quickest to react, but any thoughts of a spectacular overhead kick – what he seemed to be shaping up to attempt – were denied by a tug on his shoulder, leaving him off-balance.
Instantly, the referee pointed to the penalty spot, told defenders what he had seen and instantly quelled any protest. Niko Muir stepped up and sent George Bentley the wrong way with a confident spot-kick for his 32nd Bostik League goal of the season and 39th in all competitions.
Walker and Zak Joseph both had half-chances after more sloppy defending from the Rebels defence, but they could not exact full punishment.
However, in the 15th minute, Worthing were made to pay for their carelessness as former Hendon player Alfie Young was caught in possession and made no attempt to stop Muir, who advanced a couple of strides before angling a pass into the path of Joseph. This time the striker made no mistake with his shot and he made it 2–0.
There was almost no time for Hendon to celebrate this second goal as they conceded a goal barely 40 seconds later. Reece Myles-Meekum collected the ball in the inside-right channel on the halfway line, outsprinted Arthur Lee and fired a shot across Tom Lovelock into the net at the far post.
Both teams were committed to attack and the two defences were at full stretch but Worthing’s shooting accuracy was certainly found wanting as a number of efforts failed to trouble Lovelock.
Probably the best of these opportunities fell to Jared Rance, but from a good position he snatched at the shot and fired well wide of the target.
The Rebels’ over-commitment to passing the ball out defence, however, continued to cause them problems and it took a brilliant save from Bentley to deny Walker. Bentley tipped the ball against the crossbar and was favoured by the bounce of the backspin as the ball went out for a corner. The inswinging delivery was nearly touched home by Rian Bray and flew inches wide of the far post.
Three minutes before the interval, following another half-cleared corner, Oliver Sprague found himself attacking the down the right wing. He got the better of Sam Rents, got to the bline and drilled a low cross which flew inches in front of Eggleton and went out for a throw-in.
What appeared to be a decisive moment came in the 56th minute, when Joseph found Walker with a neat pass. The striker got the better of Joe Clarke, who bundled him over. Walker, however, didn’t wait for the referee to make a decision, getting back to his feet, cutting back towards goal and rolling the ball inside Bentley’s near post.
Alex Parsons was kept largely quiet by Tingey, who quiet and efficiently, held the midfield together and happily played simple passes to open team-mates. However, Parsons did have have one shooting chance and Lovelock made a low, sprawling save, grabbing the rebound as George Barker approached.
Rebels fans had been clamouring for changes to be made and, with 18 minutes remaining, the Worthing management team made a double switch, replacing Rance and Kieran Pamment with Ben Pope and Zach Newton.
Two minutes later, Worthing should have cut the deficit, but Hendon weathered a crazy scramble which saw two efforts blocked close to, or on the goalline. Lovelock then made a brilliant low save to keep out a drive from Jesse Starkey. From the corner, Aarran Racine was wide with a free header.
Ball replaced the almost exhausted Eggleton for the final 13 or so minutes, but he had no chance to make a contribution before the scores were level.
First, the ball was played down the right side and Barker linked with Pope, who finished clinically.
Barely a minute later, from an attack down the left side, the ball was played into the middle of the penalty area, where Barker had lost his marker, trusted his touch and knocked the ball past Lovelock.
Both teams felt they could get the win and, with 10 minutes to go, Walker forced a save from Bentley.
Hendon then made their second substitution, with Uchechi taking over from Walker, and one run turned the Worthing defence inside out, but his ball eluded everyone as it rolled across the face of the goal.
In the second of three minutes of additional time, Muir took control of the ball just inside the centre circle and ran forward a couple of strides before playing a magificient slide-rule pass into the path of Nathaniel-George, who timed his run perfectly to beat the offside trap.
Taking a touch to control the ball, he then cut inside the covering Clarke, and having made the angle for a shot much better, Nathaniel-George caressed the ball into the net.
Hendon players and supporters celebrated as crestfallen Worthing players slumped to their haunches in disappointment.
Although there was still enough time for a dramatic equaliser, Hendon made absolutely certain there was not a single chance to shred the nerves of the Greens faithful.
Hendon: Lovelock, Hammond, Sprague, Lee, Bray, Tingey, Walker, Eggleton (Ball 77), Joseph (Uchechi 80), Muir, Nathaniel-George. Unused subs: Currie, Maclaren, S Murphy.