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Non League Football Under The Microscope

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Eastbourne Borough fans celebrate - August Bank Holiday Monday 2003                                Photograph by Sam Hicks

Snapshots - Hendon FC

Hendon vs Walton & Hersham. Isthmian (Ryman) Premier Division, 20 January 2007, Claremont Road. Score 3-0. Attendance 212
With the sale of Claremont Road to a property developer for just under £20 million, the iconic home of Hendon is living on borrowed time, with only a restrictive covenent designed the keep the site as a sporting venue keeping the demolition men at bay. It had been assumed that April 2006 would mark the last ever match but thus far, there has been a stay of execution. With that in mind, a first ever visit to the ground was a priority, although I did wonder if I had made a wasted journey until the referee’s pre-match inspection produced a positive outcome. If things were uncertain off the pitch, it wasn’t going too well on it either: this was a quintessential ‘six-pointer’ with both clubs in the bottom three, and Walton & Hersham rooted to the foot of the table.

Hendon (in green) dominated the opening 45 minutes but, as is often the case with teams in their position, the players appeared to lack the necessary confidence in the final third to get the all-important breakthrough, much to the frustration of the home fans behind the goal. On 55 minutes however, just when I was resigning myself to a 0-0 draw, it came. Belal Aiteouakrim had suffered an injury in the first half (that’s him on his knees in the third pic), but recovered to slot home the opening goal from close range. It’s a cliché, but what a difference a goal makes: Hendon’s confidence soared and the visitors’ resistance evaporated, along with their defence. Brian Haule finished clinically on 65 minutes give the home side a comfortable two goal cushion (pic 10); and three minutes later Jamie Busby’s effort just managed to squeeze the right side of the far post (pic 11) to completely kill off any possibility of an unlikely comeback from a poor Walton & Hersham side.

After the game I reflected on how unusual it was to see two clubs in their first choice colours, minus any advertising on their shirts; and finally, as someone who has to do the job at my own ‘home’ club, praise for Hendon’s match-day announcer. After struggling with some difficult pronounciations amongst the visiting team, he then apologised if he had got any wrong and invited anyone who knew better to let him know... a refreshing change to that of his counterpart at Havant & Waterlooville a couple of seasons back, who incensed visiting Eastbourne Borough supporters by announcing Yemi Odubade as “Yemi Whateverhisnameis”! DB