PETER MORRISON TROPHY ROUND TWO
SOUTHGATE HARMEN 1 HENDON UNITED SPORTS CLUB A 2
Excellent finishes from Greg Corin and Yoav Kestenbaum steered Hendon into the third round of the National Cup as they edged past first division Harmen 2-1 in an evening kick-off on the 4g at Rowley Lane.
The magnitude of the task ahead was not lost on the Harmen boys as they went through their paces under the glare of the floodlights in what was described by joint-manager Ben Adaki as "the most focused and intense warm-up of the season". Everyone knew we were in for a challenge and were preparing their minds to face an experienced Hendon team.
Harmen's plans were dealt a major blow with trusty left-back Adam Velleman picking up a serious injury within two minutes of the game starting and was later carted off in an Ambulance to nearby Barnet General where he was diagnosed with torn ankle ligaments. His Harmen teammates "wish Adam a speedy recovery during his lay-off".
Striker Sam Castle was his usual dominant self, winning every header but the Harmen wingers were not running on, perhaps in fear of Hendon hitting us on the break. At the half time break, Hendon were one goal up with a well-placed finish from the edge of the box.
A shift of formation and personnel in the second half and with wind in Harmen's favour; they came out with a bit more freedom and the flick-ons from Castle were now being picked up. Oli Leslie and Ben Weinberg were starting to dominate the midfield and Ricky Rinder made some penetrating runs from his new left-back position.
Hendon sensed that they would be able to capitalise on the attacking nature of Harmen's play and they hit them on the counter to score their second goal of the game. At 2-0 down against a quality Premier Division side, the crowd on the sidelines (Harmen's biggest turn out of the season thanks to the later kick-off) must have been thinking that worse was to come as Hendon are renowned for killing teams off once they get to this scoreline.
However, the two-goal deficit appeared to lift the Harmen boys on the pitch who were now clicking into gear, passes were finding their teammates and we looked increasingly dangerous. Ben Henry, who is starting to mature into a fine Harmen player, picked up the ball from Jordan Grant, made a run down the right, beat a couple of men and put the ball on a plate for Castle who was never going to miss. The ball seemed to move in slow motion but over the line it went and Harmen were back to one goal down with confidence, wind and momentum all in their favour.
Hendon sensed this and started to sit deeper but Harmen could not quite make the break through, the keeper making a fine fingertip save from a Jon Morris header following a perfect free-kick taken by the all-action Lee Greenfield and the resulting corner was headed over the bar and with that went Harmen's last chance as Hendon progressed.
Hendon boss David Garbacz told JC Sport: "Enormous credit should go to both teams for pulling out all the stops in order to get this game played. We suddenly found ourselves down to the bare bones today as Ari Last, Josh Lipman, Rafi kon and Ari Nevies all pulled out at the last minute. This left us with a very youthful team and we knew it would not be too pretty. Our objective was to get the job done come what may and we were well tested by a very determined Harmen side .
"The weather was freezing but the conditions were good and whilst we certainly were not at our best we managed to get the win. At one stage I think only Russell Corin in goal was playing in his natural position such were our problems but thankfully we got over the line. Despite the scoreline I was never overly worried - I was just praying it wouldn't go into extra-time as I think my toes would have frozen off.
"We scored two great goals today with moments of class from Greg and Yoav Kestenbaum and ultimately that proved the difference. We look forward to the next round."
Harmen joint-manager Joel Alterman told JC Sport: "All in all it was a performance that every single Harmen player could be proud of - a team of mostly new faces coming up against an experienced team from the top flight.
"It's now time for us to focus on the league, after our performance on Sunday we need to push on in our promotion bid so that we can challenge ourselves against the likes of Hendon A week in, week out next season."