Hendon 2 Barnet 0: Greens reach Middlesex Senior Cup final

Niko Muir in action for Hendon against Barnet (pic: facebook.com/DBeechPhotography)

Niko Muir in action for Hendon against Barnet (pic: facebook.com/DBeechPhotography) - Credit: Archant

Middlesex Senior Cup semi-final: Hendon 2 (Wise 1, H Joseph 56) Barnet 0

Hendon reached the Middlesex Senior Cup final with a narrow victory over Barnet at Silver Jubilee Park on Wednesday night. This was an excellent cup-tie, played at great pace and both teams contributed equally to the entertainment, with chances at both tends for all of the 90 minutes.

There were a number of changes to the Hendon line-up, with Zak Joseph, Casey Maclaren and Keagan Cole absent and Dave Diedhiou and Arthur Lee named on the bench. Harold Joseph, Harly Wise, Sam Murphy and Dan Uchechi came into the starting line-up.

Barnet, meanwhile, named a relatively strong team, seven of their players having been named in their League Two squad for the previous night’s defeat against Carlisle United. Their squad included two former Hendon loanees, goalkeeper George Legg and midfielder Wesley Fonguck, who was an unused substitute.

In the opening few minutes, Barnet attacked Hendon with gusto, but Rian Bray and Harold Joseph, with James Hammond and Oliver Sprague outside them limited the Bees to only half-chances. Nonetheless Shaquile Coulthirst – the League 2 Player of the Month in September – and Shane Cojocarel didn’t take opportunities that presented themselves.

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At the other end, however, the Barnet defence looked distinctly less secure and a couple of loose passes gave Niko Muir and Uchechi the idea that chances would come. In the ninth minute, it was proved to be true.

The giant Tin Plavotic got caught in possession by Muir, who immediately set off for goal. His shot came off the post and fell to Uchechi, His first effort was blocked so he rolled the rebound back to Wise, who caressed the ball into the bottom corner for his first Hendon goal.

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Muir was terrorizing the Barnet defence with his direct runs. His best chance ended with a shot into the near post side-netting and two others, after 16 and 34 minutes, resulted in shots which beat Legg, but also, very narrowly, the far post.

In the 24th minute, Legg produced an excellent save to deny Ashley Nathaniel-George. Having been on top for more than 20 minutes, but still leading only 1–0, Hendon found themselves under more pressure just before the break.

In the 36th minute, the Greens struggled to clear the ball as Cojocarel caused problems and Fuad Sule took to long before trying a shot. Luke Tingey and Wise were effective in their defensive midfield roles, but the Bees were guilty of trying to fashion a perfect goal rather than taking shots when they presented themselves.

Before the start of the second half, Justin Amaluzar replaced Cojocarel, suggesting the latter might have a larger role in the Bees’ game at Colchester three days later. Two minutes into the half Andre Blackman forced to Lovelock into an excellent save.

From the corner, Joe Payne saw and attempt blocked on the line, Darnel Smith had his effort blocked and, from this rebound Plavotic was denied by another Lovelock saved

In the 55th minute, Hendon doubled their lead. A free-kick on the right side was in a perfect position for Sprague to deliver a cross, which he did perfectly.

No Barnet player reacted and Harold Joseph nipped in to knock the ball into the net from six yards out. Like for Wise in the first half, it was Joseph’s first goal for the club and this one gave Hendon a little breathing room, something they did rather need.

After an hour, Shomotoun, like Muir in the first half fired across the face of the goal and twice the Bees had what they thought were valid penalty claims waved aside.

A couple of minutes after the goal, Uchechi picked up an injury and he was replaced by Diedhiou. Then, in the 59th minute, it was Nathaniel-George who required treatment and he, too, did not return to the action, William Murphy taking his place. It left the Greens with Murphys attacking down both flanks, Sam to the left, William to the right.

Barnet made their second change with 20 minutes to, Nana Kyei coming on for Sule and Ephron Mason-Clark was the Bees’ last change, 10 minutes later, Coulthirst being the player sacrificed. In between, Hendon had brought on another teenager, Malachy McGovern replacing Wise.

Quite how the final 15 minutes ended goalless is something of a mystery. Barnet attacked remorselessly, only to waste great scoring opportunities.

But it wasn’t all one-way traffic. William Murphy was superb in attack and two or three balls into the danger area needed only a touch to make it 3–0 and Muir continued to give Bees defenders fits with his strength and power. William Murphy also saw a shot well saved by Legg.

The feeling was that the Greens’ two-goal lead may not be enough, and even in the final minutes of normal time, a Barnet goal would have led to a desperate period of defending to keep the advantage.

And the Hendon nerves were really jangling with two minutes of normal time remaining, when Shomotoun should have made it 2–1 with a shot from eight yards out, albeit at an angle. Lovelock, however, made a tremendous parry, throwing himself in front of the shot.

The rebound fell to Mason-Clark, and he beat Lovelock, only for Hammond and Joseph to dive in and, between them, they blocked the ball right on the goalline. There didn’t appear to be too much in the way of complaint Barnet players, but the ball was still live until Lovelock claimed it after a ricochet came slowly at him.

Three injuries – Joseph required treatment after his goalline heroics – five substitutions, a goal and a caution for Luke Tingey all added up to six minutes off additional time. In the fourth minute of added time, Hendon won their first corner of the game, Barnet had mustered six, but the Greens were denied by the Bees’ rearguard.

In the end, Hendon had done just enough to hang on. It will be the Greens’ first Middlesex Cup final in nine seasons – their 28th overall and they will be looking to lift the trophy for the first time since 2004

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