Hendon advanced in Herts Senior Cup after they defeated North Greenford 3-2

Hendon advanced in the Middlesex Senior Cup on Tuesday after they defeated North Greenford 3-2 thanks to goals from Jack Bennett, Anthony Thomas and Carl McCluskey.

Hendon were looking to bounce back and immediately sought to take control of the game.

Indeed, they dominated the first five minutes in a spell of play that included adventurous forays down both flanks, the resultant crosses being repelled by a sturdy United defence.

United came into the game after this initial spell, gradually putting in place some flowing attacking moves and taking a few pot-shots from distance.

Anthony Thomas had the first couple of real Hendon chances, flashing a shot just over before ballooning a similar chance well over the bar in the 10th minute.

A scrappy, uneventful period of play followed, before United once again began to exert some pressure. Another long-range effort went wide, before an intricate free-kick routine after half an hour was plucked out of the air by a grateful Berkley Laurencin in the Hendon box.

Hendon were soon on the offensive again, with a cross from Dave Diedhiou headed goalwards by Carl McCluskey, although his header did little to trouble the United custodian.

Hendon continued to up the pressure as half-time approached, although the frequent use of short corners did little to dispel the notion that Hendon might be better off launching the ball into the box more frequently.

However, it was one from of these corners that an almighty goalmouth scramble occurred, the ball pinging around the United box pinball-style before eventually being cleared.

As the first half drew to a close, United had their best chance of the game, a striker clean through on goal but only able to poke his shot wide with just the Hendon keeper to beat. Although goalless, the first half was a relatively entertaining affair.

The second half exploded almost immediately, with a frantic flurry of finishing that made for a great spectacle.

In the 51st minute, Jack Bennett – watched by his father in the North Greenford dugout where he is assistant manager – embarked on a mazy run.

He eluded countless challenges like a greased otter as he bore down on goal before smashing the ball past Jamie Irving into the United net to notch up Hendon’s first goal.

Hendon had a great chance to double their lead a few minutes later, but Thomas sliced his effort wide. Thomas made amends shortly thereafter, chesting the ball down before volleying it into the roof of the net.

He was having his shirt pulled throughout and it is to his credit that he fought for the goal rather than simply seeking a penalty. His ninth goal of the season – ten behind leading goalscorer Jefferson Louis –matched the tally of Hendon’s top scorer in 2012–13.

A couple of minutes later, McCluskey looked to have made a passage into the next round a formality as he took advantage of a defensive mishap to stroke the ball home with aplomb.

Soon after, Hendon sent on Kevin Maclaren for Bennett and gave a debut to new signing Jamal Stewart – on dual registration from Erith Town – at the expense of Thomas.

However, in a self-destructive fashion, Hendon almost threw away their three-goal advantage.

In the 65th minute, United reduced the arrears after Hendon sloppily gave away possession in the danger zone. A cross from Myles Stephenson enabled Aaron Silcott to score what appeared to be a consolation goal.

But the home side pulled back another goal just five minutes later as Laurencin thought he had saved a powerful close-range shot from another former Hendon traillist, Liam Hind, only to see the spinning ball loop over him before languidly rolling into the net.

Tony Taggart came on for McCluskey, meaning that Hendon had replaced all three of their goalscorers. This also meant that Aaron Morgan reverted to left-back.

As the match entered its final 10 minutes, Hendon fans were left biting their nails to the quick as United nearly – and it would have been deservedly – drew things level.

In the 80th minute, Silcott toe-poked a shot which hit a post and bounced across the face of the goal before being cleared.

With five minutes of normal time the match witnessed its only unsavoury incident. Dean Cracknell launched a robust challenge on a United player, who aimed a kick at the Hendon player from the ground. Cracknell reacted with a prolonged series of pushes which escalated into a melee.

During this, Cracknell was adjudged to have aimed a punch at his adversary, leaving the referee little choice other than to dispatch the midfielder for a slightly early bath. It ensured a frantic final few minutes for the depleted Greens.

And, as the game drew to a close, United nearly forced extra time. A clearance struck a United forward before arcing onto the Hendon crossbar, and then the home side unleashed a volley in injury time which went narrowly wide.

North Greenford United should take great pride in a stirring fight back from which they really deserved to take the tie into extra time.

Hendon, meanwhile, left Berkeley Fields happy to have progressed in the competition – the last one in which the Greens have interest – although the management was  dismayed by the team’s near capitulation after taking such a commanding lead.

“Lady Luck shone on us tonight,” admitted a relieved Gary McCann. “The woodwork fortune was with us in a way that it wasn’t on Sunday.

“We did everything in our power to throw away a three-goal lead.

“We totally controlled the game for 65 minutes. Our application and attitude after the Whitstable game was first class. We scored three goals that all very good in their own ways.”

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