Weston-super-Mare 2 Hendon 2 - Greens denied opening day win by late equaliser
PUBLISHED: 10:30 12 August 2019 | UPDATED: 17:11 12 August 2019
Weston-super-Mare 2 Hendon 2
Hendon came agonisingly close to beginning their Southern League campaign with an excellent three points at much fancied Weston-super-Mare only to be denied by an equaliser for the hosts deep into stoppage time.
In truth, although the visiting side showed plenty of heart and character in the second period, on the balance of the ninety minutes a point apiece was probably about right in the final reckoning given Hendon's superiority in the first period and Weston's in the second.
Jimmy Gray handed competitive debuts to Tom Hamblin, Sam Corcoran and Kameron English, whilst Arash Abdollahi and Luca Valentine came off the bench for their first Hendon appearances.
Weston very nearly took the lead before a Hendon man had got a touch on the ball with Ben Whitehead working himself half a yard of space to get a low left footed shot off but Chris Grace was down well low to his left to smother.
Following that early scare, the tangerine shirted visitors took control of the next 35 minutes. The midfield trio of Matty Harriott, Ryan Hope and Lee Chappell were full of energy, snapping away at their opponents and forcing errors whilst Sam Corcoran at the base of the midfield exuded calm.
It took just six minutes for Hendon to get their season up and running. Charlie Smith had caused panic in the Weston goalmouth when his wind-assisted inswinging corner threatened to embarrass the home goalkeeper, Luke Purnell, who had to scramble the ball away from his near post for another corner. With the second attempt, Smith's delivery was almost a carbon copy, the only difference was that this time Luke TINGEY rose at the near post to glance inside the near post.
Sam Corcoran picked up the first of five yellow cards for the visitors for a late challenge in midfield, and Connor Calcutt sent a strike narrowly over the angle of post of and bar before the visitors extended their advantage in calamitous circumstances for Purnell.
In possession outside his own penalty area he tried to play the ball short to a defender only to clip it into Calcutt's midriff. It rebounded nicely into the path of Kameron ENGLISH who needed no second bidding to coolly advance half a dozen yards into the penalty area and show a cool head to finish superbly into the bottom corner.
Howard Hall and Matty Harriott both joined Corcoran in the book whilst the referee waved away good-looking penalty appeals at both ends within a couple of minutes of each-other before the arrears were reduced with five minutes of the first half remaining.
A cross from the right flank saw Nick MCCOOTIE beat Tingey to the header and his effort across Grace crossed the line before Charlie Smith's attempt at clearing the ball off the line only succeeded in hammering it into the roof of the net.
Smith then cleared the ball off the line from a Weston corner that caused plenty of consternation in the visiting defence and then, on the stroke of half time Whitehead's free glancing header flew six inches wide of Grace's right-hand post when he ought to have hit the target.
The second period saw almost one-way traffic as Weston pressed and pressed for an equaliser. Isaac Pearce was providing the main threat wide on the left yet sometimes seemed to be in two minds as to whether to go for goal himself or find a man inside the penalty area. Hendon, perhaps feeling the effect of the high intensity pressing game they pursued in the first half, sat deep and looked to hit on the break, but with little success.
That said, Tingey and Hamblin were excellent at centre-half, winning headers and throwing their bodies in front of countless goal-bound strike as Grace was limited to just having to make a couple of saves and claim one cross very well under pressure. The closest Weston came to a goal was when Whitehead's header hit the crossbar and an orange shirt managed to scramble the rebound away for a corner kick on the hour mark.
As it looked as though Weston's endeavours would come to nought with stoppage time ticking away, Pearce wriggled away from Abdollahi and then Hall before cutting the ball back into the penalty area. Hendon bodies made at least two excellent blocks yet as the ball fell to Whitehead, the Weston striker showed a calm head to take a touch from 8 yards out and send Grace the wrong way, tucking the ball into the bottom corner.
More than one Hendon player was left prostrate on the floor, the disappointment evaporating from every pore, however the equaliser gave the scoreline a fairer complexion.
Hendon deserved something for their efficiency in front of goal in the first half and the work-rate shown and determination to put their bodies on the line whilst the hosts were full value for their point given their superiority territorially after the break.
Although at 4:55 when the final whistle blew it felt like two points dropped, as the gloom began to lift the realisation that this was probably a good point gained began to dawn.
Team: Grace, Hall, Smith, Corcoran (Abdollahi 66), Hamblin, Tingey, Hope, Harriott, Calcutt (Valentine 76), English, Chappell. Unused subs: Anderson, McGleish, Huxter (GK).