Southern League: Merthyr Town 0 Hendon 2
PUBLISHED: 11:30 17 February 2019 | UPDATED: 11:30 17 February 2019
Hendon stretched their unbeaten run to five games but, more importantly, ended their 14-game winless streak in all competitions with an Evo-Stik South League Southern Premier Division victory over Merthyr Town at Penydaren Park on Saturday.
It was a gutsy performance against a playoff-chasing team and, at one stage in the second half, the Greens were without all three of their starting centre backs. There were only a couple of changes to the squad with Ogo Obi starting in place of Lewis Toomey, who dropped to the bench, where Connor Calcutt came in for Brendan Murphy-McVey.
Merthyr started brightly, with Ben Swallow pulling the strings for the Martyrs, but neither team looked remotely like making a breakthrough for a quarter of an hour. Hendon made things difficult for themselves by winning defensive headers but directing the ball straight at Merthyr players.
In the 16th minute, Ryan Prosser did well to keep a ball in play and Swallow crossed into the danger zone. A nod-down set up Jamie Veale, who drilled the ball towards the bottom corner, but Danny Boness made an outstanding low save to keep the game goalless.
Veale then arrived late beyond the far post and won a header from another Swallow cross. But, at full stretch, he was unable to keep the ball down and it lobbed over the crossbar.
Hendon finally created a chance and nearly broke the deadlock, with a fine passing move opening up the Merthyr defence and ending with Shaquille Hippolyte-Patrick firing a shot which Lewis Webb saved well with his legs.
Seven minutes before half-time, Prosser had a shooting chance and put his effort on target. However, although Boness made a spectacular diving save, it was at a very comfortable height.
In the 39th minute, Hendon were in front as Obi was released by a pass down the right wing and just about beat Webb to the ball. The goalkeeper brought down Obi and the referee immediately blew his whistle, spoke briefly to his assistant, before pointing to the spot.
At no time, did a Merthyr player argue the decision and Hippolyte-Patrick took responsibility for the penalty as he drilled the ball low and hard into the bottom corner.
Webb, like Wimborne’s custodian a week earlier, got a hand to the ball but could not stop it from entering the net.
A minute later, Obi’s pace again unsettled the Martyrs’ defence and he almost got through. Webb, this time, did get to the ball first and although his clearance was hurried it did find touch.
The Greens made a hash of the throw-in and Merthyr quickly attacked with vigour. The ball came out to Ashley Evans, who picked his spot, but Boness made a fine acrobatic save tipping the ball away.
In first-half stoppage time, Hendon forced a corner and, as the ball came in, an attacking player was wrestled to the ground. The referee lectured the offender and ordered the corner to be retaken. If the ball had been struck from the quadrant when the contact was made, it would have been a penalty.
The corner caused chaos in the Merthyr penalty area and Romario Jonas sent an attempt goalwards. A defender, however, got a touch on the ball and the home defence was grateful to see it roll inches beyond the unguarded far post.
Before the second half started, Darren Locke came out for a fitness test, but failed it which meant Howard Hall came into the action.
It led to a further reshuffle to the formation – a change successfully having been made during the opening period to clip the dangerous Swallow’s wings, with Charlie Smith getting kudos for his efforts.
There was no flying start by Merthyr in the second half, almost as if they were confident they would pull back the goal.
Jacob Gardiner-Smith was cautioned for a clumsy challenge, brought about by his whole-heartedness rather malice, and with a hour gone, Obi went off and Calcutt came on for him.
Calcutt doesn’t have Obi’s pace, but his quality in the air and ability to hold up the ball made him a very different proposition for the home defence, and they didn’t cope well.
Another piece of crisp passing gave Hendon their second goal as Hippolyte-Patrick did well to reach the ball and made the telling cross from almost on the goal-line and Calcutt guided a header into the bottom corner.
Before the resumption, Merthyr made their first two substitutions, Keiran Lewis and Owain Jones taking over from Connor Young and Veale.
And within two minutes, the Martyrs had the ball in the Hendon net for the first of three occasions but, this time, the assistant’s flag was up and the whistle had been blown before Lewis had netted.
The second half was littered with free-kicks and although the game never became spiteful or fouls malicious, it broke up the continuity of the match flow.
Both teams were disappointed when the referee blew for free-kicks when they had an advantage, but the official was keen to ensure the game didn’t flare up.
Luke Tingey picked up a yellow card when he did not get a free-kick and it would prove to be a silly and very costly caution.
With 12 minutes to go, Tingey bundled over a Merthyr attacker and received a second yellow card and his marching orders.
This resulted in Bayley Brown, about to be Hendon’s third substitute, returning to the bench and there was yet another reshuffle, especially of the defence.
However, Merthyr were losing the key battles in midfield because Ryan Hope, with his strength and positional sense, Sergio Manesio, with his calmness and simple passing, and skipper Matty Harriott, which his all-action energy, broke up play time after time.
Brown finally came on for Hope and immediately conceded a free-kick which ended with an offside decision negating a goal.
Merthyr should have been desperate by now, but although there was added pressure, Hendon’s goal wasn’t under siege. Jonas went down having stretched to make a clearance, but he was able to resume.
Then, in the last minute of normal time, Merthyr won a free-kick just outside the penalty area. Evans, the captain, lined up the ball and his curling effort seemed destined to halve the arrears, until Boness produced a fourth excellent save.
In the six additional minutes, Merthyr seemed resigned to their fate, but maybe a symbol of Hendon’s performance was the game’s last act. Adam Davies tried to fire the ball into the box, but Jonas came out of defence, threw himself in front of the ball, blocked it away and immediately turned to run back into his defensive position.
Hendon manager James Gray tweeted, “Long day, made well worth while!!!
“Players and staff executed the plan, the winning has been a long time coming. Big shout to the travelling fans of Hendon, that was for you for sticking with us and keeping the faith.”
Hendon: Boness, Gardiner-Smith, Smith, Manesio, Tingey, Locke (Hall, HT), Jonas, Harriott, Obi (Calcutt, 60), Hippolyte-Patrick (Brown, 85), Hope. Unused subs: Crichlow, Toomey.