Bostik Premier: Wingate 2 Hendon 2
PUBLISHED: 10:00 03 April 2018
Hendon held onto their fourth place in the Bostik League Premier Division after coming from behind to earn a point at a rain-sodden Maurice Rebak Stadium on Easter Monday.
Wingate & Finchley had scored twice in three minutes early in the second half, before Niko Muir converted his second penalty of the match to level matters.
There were three changes to the Hendon line-up which had beaten Metropolitan Police two days earlier, Luke Tingey, Josh Walker and Michael Corcoran making way for Jake Eggleton, Oliver Sprague and Dan Uchechi.
Tingey and Walker were the two used substitutes, as newly registered youth teamer Riccardo Alexander Greenaway, Matt Ball and Sam Murphy were unused.
Although Wingate & Finchley had been very confident that the game would go ahead, a pre-match deluge left the pitch with areas where the ball did not run completely truly and the Summers Lane end was distinctly more difficult to defend than the opposite goal.
Luke Ifil, in particular, had a torrid afternoon, playing the worst area of the pitch and tormented by Ashley Nathaniel George.
Hendon had much the better of the first half, but the first chance of the period went to the Blues when Reece Beckles-Richards fired a 20-yard shot which Tom Lovelock saved.
The goalkeeper pushed the ball wide of the post, but it landed softly and did not roll over the goalline for a corner.
Both teams then had what seemed valid penalty appeals turned down. First, in the ninth minute, Uchechi seemed to be tripped. Then, eight minutes later, Irnti Rapai appeared to be taken down.
A second Wingate & Finchley penalty claim came when James Hammond had a ball bounce off his leg and against his hand, but his arm was stationary.
In the 19th minute, Zak Joseph forced Shane Gore into making a save from a 20-yard strike. Eight minutes later, as Hendon forced a succession of corners, the Blues failed to deal with a set-piece and Dave Diedhiou saw his goalbound effort blocked by a brave defender who threw himself in front of the shot.
Eight minutes before half time, there was yet another penalty incident and, this time, after a moment’s hesitation, the referee pointed to the spot.
There was little doubt Sprague was fouled by Layne Eadie, but the challenge was not only unnecessary, but also inches inside the penalty area.
Muir took responsibility for the spot-kick and although Gore guessed correctly, his firm hand on the ball could not stop it and nestled in the bottom corner.
It was Muir’s 30th Bostik League goal of the season, the second Hendon player ever to score 30 Isthmian League goals in a season and the first since David Hyde scored 35 in 1964–65.
Thankfully the rain lessened around half-time, but the interval did not come at a good time for Hendon as they were now on top and looking likely to score whenever they went into attacking positions.
Instead, within seven minutes of the resumption, Hendon found themselves trailing.
Barely a minute into the second half, Wingate & Finchley attacked down the Hendon right and when the ball was crossed to the far post, Rihai had a clear shot. He tried the technically very difficult drive into the ground and had too much power on his shot as it bounced over the top of the crossbar.
Three minutes later, Rihai was celebrating. A ball from midfield seemed to be easy for either Arthur Lee or Rian Bray to deal with, but they got into a horrible tangle, which left Rihai with an almost unchallenged run towards got and he beat Lovelock with a well-placed drive.
In the 52nd minute, the Blues took the lead when Ifil and Reece Beckles-Richards combined on the Wingate & Finchley right. Ifil’s cross was teasing and it drew Lovelock off his line, but it never got close to him as Marc Charles-Smith flicked a header over the stranded goalkeeper and into the net.
In the 55th minute, Joseph was chasing a ball towards the wide right edge of the penalty area when he tangled with Eadie, stumbled and went down.
The referee, taking no account of conditions, immediately cautioned the striker though it seemed that the two players had simply tangled and one went down in the contact, and there was no simulation.
Three minutes later, Joseph again went down in the penalty area, but this time there was little doubt that a penalty was the correct decision because the Wingate & Finchley defender had been beaten and only Gore stood between Joseph and the equaliser.
Muir’s second penalty was as well struck as his first, only this time Gore went the wrong way.
Both teams tried to find a winning goal. Beckles-Richards fired wide for Wingate & Finchley, as did Rihai, while Lee timed a challenge perfectly to stop Charles-Smith in his tracks and Bray blocked a drive from Tommy Tejan-See. There was also an opening for Ahmet Rifat, but he could not keep his header down.
Hendon’s best moments in the final quarter came from concerted spells of pressure, especially forcing corners. One ball curled into the danger zone could not be cleared and the rebound needed only a touch from a green shirt, but a blue one got there first.
In the 71st minute, Lee had the chance to get Hendon’s third goal when he lost his marker and met a Sprague corner with a powerful header. The accuracy was lacking, however, and the ball fizzed inches wide of the post.
Walker and Tingey were introduced in the late stages, for Joseph and Diedhiou, and Walker had one dangerous run, but Cronin did well to force him wide and then make a well-timed tackle to stop him.
The result leaves Hendon in fourth place in the Bostik League table and, with six games remaining, the Greens’ hopes of making the play-offs remain well and truly alive.
Wingate: Gore, Ifil, Eadie, Eales, Cronin, Rifat, Rapai, Joseph, Charles-Smith, Beckles-Richards, Tejan-Sie (Moncur 65). Unused subs: Obafemi, Pattie, Laney, Williams.
Hendon: Lovelock, Hammond, Sprague, Lee, Bray, Diedhiou, Uchechi, Eggleton, Joseph (Walker 79), Muir, Nathaniel-George. Unused subs: Ball, Tingey, Alexander-Greenaway, Murphy.