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Former Arsenal and Bradford City striker Isaiah Rankin scores spectacular extra-time FA Cup winner to send Hendon through at expense of Eastbourne Borough
6:14pm Wednesday 10th October 2012 in Sport
Hendon advanced to the fourth round qualifying of the FA Cup for the fourth consecutive season with a magnificent 2–1 victory over Blue Square Bet (Conference) South strugglers Eastbourne Borough at Vale Farm on Tuesday night. The Greens’ prize is a trip to the winners of tonight’s replay between Corby Town and Histon on Saturday week.
The match was very tense and the quality of football did not match that of Saturday's 2-2 draw, but Hendon fans could not care less about that. All that mattered was the result and the Greens did it the hard way, with ten men, and after trailing two minutes into extra-time. Unusually, all three goals were scored by substitutes.
Both teams made changes for the replay; Hendon bringing in George Smith at the expense of the omitted Scott Shulton. Eastbourne, surprisingly, left out their captain and both their starting strikers, with David Obaze, Gary Hart and Charlie Gorman taking over from Ollie Rowe, David Knight and Ellis Remy respectively.
Rowe’s problems with the pace of the Hendon front two meant that when Obaze limped off early in the second half, it was the more mobile Rhys Paul who came on in his place.
Hendon had a good first five minutes, but a shot from Greg Ngoyi was comfortably handled by Nick Jordan, who had appeared to be bundle of nerves in the first game. In the replay, not only did he make some excellent saves, he commanded his penalty area much better.
Gradually, however, Eastbourne began to exert control of the game, but Hart and Gorman got absolutely no change out of James Fisher and George McCluskey. Very importantly, Kevin Maclaren, in particular, ably assisted by brother Casey and Dean Cracknell, stopped the creativity of Chris Shephard, the man whose goals forced the replay.
The Greens played a much narrower game, meaning that neither Ryan Wharton nor Scott Cousins were seen much in attack during the first half. Nevertheless, when the ball was played forward Smith, Ngoyi and Elliott Charles caused alarm bells to ring in the visitors’ defence. In the 41st minute, Hendon did create a good opening, but Jordan saved well from Charles.
After the break, Hendon upped their tempo and prised the initiative away from the punchless Eastbourne attack. Four minutes after the resumption, Charles was put through, strode between Unwar Uddin and Sam Cole, only to see Jordan make a good sprawling save.
Eastbourne’s bench was clearly unhappy with the way things were going. Having lost Obaze, who had handled Ngoyi quite well, the anonymous Ben Adams was replaced by Remy midway through the second half, and Darren Lok, who had looked bright as a second-half replacement at Priory Lane took over from Hart, whose contribution had been almost as negligible.
This last change for Borough came with nine minutes left of normal time. By contrast, Hendon’s starting eleven had seen only one replacement, with Michael Murray coming on for the tiring Smith.
With extra-time looming, Hendon went all out for the winner and nearly got it on two occasions.
First, a goalbound drive from Charles, in the 82nd minute, was bravely deflected by Uddin. The ex-Barnet man was, nonetheless, a little fortunate that the ball went inches outside the near post and not just inside it.
Two minutes later a shot from Cracknell beat Jordan but went just the wrong side of the other post. There were also a couple of Hendon set-pieces that needed only a touch to have broken the deadlock.
Everything changed early in extra-time.
In the second minute, another good Hendon corner move saw Murray drive the ball towards the near post, only for Jordan to save well. The goalkeeper was on his feet quickly and his long downfield punt found Lok confronted by only one Hendon defender. The ball bounced the Eastbourne player’s way and he got a clear sight of the Hendon goal. Berkley Laurencin, on his 100th appearance for the Greens, came a little off his line, but Lok drilled the ball over and past him, off the underside of the crossbar and into the net. It was the first of two sickening blows for the men in green.
Two minutes later, a rash challenge by Cousins on Gorman saw the referee immediately pull out a red card. Just as with Shulton’s dismissal on Saturday, maybe the haste to produce a sanction made it more severe than deserved.
Ahead and against ten men, Eastbourne controlled the remainder of the first period of extra time, but still without making Laurencin produce much in the way of saves.
Hendon made the their second change, Ngoyi making way for Isaiah Rankin, midway through the period, but in the last eight minutes of the half, the former Arsenal and Bradford City Premiership player couldn’t make an impact.
Both coaches took their teams to one side before the second 15-minute period and Gary McCann admitted saying to his Hendon charges: “You have 15 minutes to save your FA Cup season. What can you do?”
The answer was regain the initiative, spectacularly.
It took just four minutes for a ball into the penalty area for Murray to bring down to get the reward. The challenge on him was as clumsy as it was needless and the defender was probably fortunate not to see a card.
Hendon’s first-choice penalty-taker was no longer on the field and some of the bench were content for the players to decide who would take it. Not McCann, who screamed that it was Murray’s responsibility.
Despite some very unsporting behaviour from Jordan – who should certainly have been cautioned once the kick had been taken – Murray held his nerve and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way. From the agony of an extra-time FA Cup exit, Hendon now faced – for many – the excruciating prospect of the near-lottery of a penalty shoot-out.
Suddenly, however, Eastbourne’s legs had gone and they were barely able to move the ball forward. Having made all three changes, an injury to Ben Adelsbury, attempting to block Cracknell’s effort at the end of the 90 minutes, meant he was almost immobile, while Cole and Uddin both seemed simply exhausted.
There were just two minutes of extra time remaining when Hendon got their winner.
A free-kick midway inside the Hendon half was pumped forward to Charles, who again got the better of his marker. His pass to Rankin was such that Uddin could not dare to make a challenge and the striker’s ability to turn was something he had to deal with. He couldn’t, mainly because Rankin only half-turned, before unleashing an early, magnificent, curling drive that flew over the unprepared Jordan and found the stanchion inside the far post.
A number of Hendon substitutes were probably fortunate not to receive cards for forming a mosh-pit of celebration on the edge of the centre circle, with Rankin somewhere at the bottom. The referee, realising the importance of the moment, stopped his watch and let the players celebrate for a few seconds.
In fact, Borough were broken by the goal and in the two minutes of stoppage time, despite a couple of attacks, their final ball – as it had been almost all evening – was nowhere near good enough.
This was a truly remarkable evening, one that will keep Hendon players, officials and fans warm at night in the recall.
“It was an emotional night,” admitted McCann, “one that will stick in the memory banks for a long time.
“I thought we deserved to win the tie over the two matches. We weren’t as good tonight as we were on Saturday and although it was a good game today, the first match was a better spectacle.
“We were under pressure in the first half, but they didn’t hurt us. But in the second half I thought we dominated. After my chat to the players before the start of the second period of extra-time, we were outstanding, especially our energy levels.
“Elliott wanted to take the penalty kick – any striker would – but Michael Murray scored 17 out of 17 from the penalty spot for Uxbridge and, with Scott off the pitch, he was my choice.”
Hendon: Laurencin, Wharton, Cousins, Fisher, G. McCluskey, K Maclaren, Cracknell, Smith (Murray 72), Ngoyi (Rankin 97), Charles, C Maclaren.Not used: Hall, J Lewis, Mazzone, C McCluskey and Thomas (gk).