Southern League: Truro City 2 Hendon 1
PUBLISHED: 13:48 20 October 2019
Hendon's longest-ever away trip for a league match ended in a fifth consecutive defeat against a Truro City side that continues to enjoy life following relegation from the National League South.
Although Jimmy Gray and his charges had the relative luxury of an overnight stay in nearby St Austell on Friday night, he had only 13 fit and available players able to make the 289-mile journey to Cornwall and had to bolster his substitute's bench with Mark Boyce and Scott McGleish, part of his coaching team.
The 13 included four teenagers and a fifth player who turned 20 only in June, while also travelling was new signing Reece Mitchell on dual registration from Haringey Borough, returning to the club having spent a month on loan at Silver Jubilee Park last season.
Harvie Gardiner, Sergio Manesio and Connor Calcutt all started along with Mitchell, with Howard Hall and Obinna Ogbonna dropping to the bench in the absence of the injured Sam Corcoran and departed Luca Valentine.
The ground staff at Treyew Road deserve plenty of credit for producing a pitch that whilst heavy, was perfectly playable following heavy rain on Friday and overnight whilst the two sides deserve equal amounts of credit for producing a thoroughly watchable spectacle.
Truro dominated the first period and would, perhaps, have been disappointed not to have gone into the break with more than their two-goal advantage.
It took just five minutes for the deadlock to be broken when Toby Byron caught Niall Thompson a little late and got a talking to from the referee.
Punishment was dished out by James Ward who rose highest to meet the free-kick from the right flank and plant his header across Chris Grace and into the bottom corner.
Byron then came as close to goal as anyone did for the visitors when he scooped an effort a yard wide of James Hamon's post from a Lee Chappell cross from the left flank before the hosts doubled their lead.
A moment of hesitation by Ed Cook as he decided how to deal with a high ball in behind the Hendon defence proved decisive as Dan Rooney nipped in and bore down on goal.
As Grace came out to narrow the angle, a simple square pass from the Truro winger gave the supporting Luke Jephcott the simplest of tasks to tap into an empty net from 10 yards.
With less than 20 minutes gone and 2-0 down, Hendon's fans could be forgiven for expecting a repeat of the 8-1 mauling they received at Lowestoft a number of years ago, but to the players' credit they dug in and made their hosts battle har,d even without providing any kind of real attacking threat aside from Reece Mitchell's willingness to carry the ball and commit home defenders.
On a couple of occasions he spread the ball nicely to the right flank, but both times, Gardiner was unable to find a cross for the waiting Calcutt and Francis Amartey.
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Luke Tingey twice made excellent blocks on goalbound shots at the other end and late in the half as Truro pressed hard to finish the game as a contest, Grace made a couple of good saves.
Firstly plunging low to his left to push the ball behind for a corner and then from a left wing free-kick, a superb reaction block from a goalbound flick at point-blank range.
After the break the visitors were able to show a little more attacking intent as Mitchell showed good footwork and awareness to find Manesio just outside the penalty area, fairly centrally, but the midfielder's effort went high over the bar.
Moments later, Truro should probably have put the game to bed as half-time substitute Harrison Davis sprung the Hendon offside trap and found himself with 40 yards of space to run into. Grace narrowed the angle and, as Davis looked to go around him the big goalkeeper made a superb and brave smothering claim at Davis' feet before launching a Hendon attack.
Amartey then used his trademark pace to work himself a shooting opportunity, but his left footed effort went wide of the post, before Rooney, at the other end, missed the target when well placed with a powerful strike of his own.
Amartey's influence on proceedings began to grow and he showed his defter side with some lovely footwork and skill inside the Truro penalty area. His route to goal was blocked though by a number of white shirts and as it fell for Manesio on the edge of the box, the midfielder's left footed strike went not too far wide of Hamon's right hand post.
As the game inched towards the final 15 minutes both sides enjoyed sizeable let-offs. Firstly, Truro substitute Louis Rooney appeared to have his shirt tugged back as he looked to break through on goal by Cook. The referee, who showed a fair degree of leniency throughout, adjudged that there had been no infringement and the ball was cleared. Had he awarded a free-kick the chances are that Cook would have been dismissed and Hendon left a man down.
As it was Hamon was very nearly left red-faced as Amartey dispossessed him with the ball at his feet in his six-yard box but unfortunately for the Hendon man, the ball ricocheted off him and into the side netting.
Byron then came agonisingly close to turning a left-wing cross into his own net, the ball spinning just wide, and with three minutes to go, Hendon hopes of an unlikely point were raised once again by that man Amartey.
His goal was similar in execution to his second against Hayes & Yeading in midweek, turning on the afterburners having seized on a loose ball in midfield to outrun the home defenders and then showing plenty of composure to tuck the ball coolly beyond Hamon and into the bottom corner of the net.
Hendon piled forward in search of the equaliser and a couple of long throws provided some consternation in the Truro penalty area. One fell for Byron but he found his goalbound poke blocked and then hacked clear.
In the final minute of stoppage time there was one final Hendon break led by Amartey and Calcutt, the ball fell for Ogbonna 22 yards out and the teenager found himself in two minds between shooting or trying to find a team-mate.
He did neither really, with his scooped effort drifting out for a goal-kick which, once cleared by Hamon, saw the final whistle.
The win keeps Truro apace with leaders Tiverton Town, who they meet on Tuesday, while Hendon's predicament makes their home game with Walton Casuals on the same day as close to a must-win as it's possible to have at this stage in the season.
Hendon: Grace, Gardiner, Byron, Chappell, Tingey, Cook, Mitchell (Hall 75), Manesio, Calcutt, Amartey, Abdollahi (Ogbonna 57). Unused subs: McGleish, Boyce.