It feels like a while since my last blog on this site as my last few games have been Isthmian League matches and a live blog. Normal service is resumed, however, in style. This step three fixture has two main attractions. It’s a new ground and a chance to see how the new look Hendon side are getting on. The Dons visit one of their closest league rivals in Kings Langley. last summer saw a non-league shake-up and Hendon were moved over to the Southern Premier Division which now stretches from North London all the way to Devon and the Welsh valleys.
Hendon were pretty successful last season, missing out on the National League in a penalty shootout. Shortly after the final whistle blew, long-term manager Gary McCann decided the time was right for a move. He headed to Hampton & Richmond Borough with a large portion of last season’s squad. Star players Nico Muir and Ashley Nathaniel-George also moved on to Hartlepool and Crawley Town respectively. Hendon have rebuilt and started fairly positively in their new division. That’s enough about the visitors, for now, we have a new ground to talk about.
Competition: Southern Premier South Division
Ground: The Sadiku Stadium
Refreshments: £2.70 (two teas and a Mars bar)
Dogs spotted: two
Who are ya, Kings Langley?
Kings, as they are known, played in local leagues until 2001 despite being founded as far back as 1886. They applied and were accepted into the Spartan South Midlands League Division One. Kings held their own on the pitch for three seasons but the move to senior football hit the club’s coffers a bit harder. They were relegated on ground issues in 2004 but recovered gradually, returning to Division One in 2008.
They never looked back and were runners-up in their first season back at step six. In six seasons in division one, they never finished lower than seventh and were finally promoted to the Premier Division in 2014. It was a fleeting visit. Kings won the Premier Division and then won the Southern League Division One Central title a year later. They became only the fourth English club ever to win three successive promotions.
The rather sudden jump in leagues again saw extra pressure applied to the club’s finances and the management team who’d overseen the triple promotion left. They’ve managed to survive their first two seasons in the Southern Premier Division South, however, which is where we find them today.
Ground 95: The Sadiku Stadium
Kings Langley were named non-league away day of the year last season in a joint award from the Football Supporters Federation and the Non-League Paper. It’s not hard to see why. The ground, also known as Gaywood Park is just off the M25 and walkable from two different stations, Apsley and Kings Langley. It’s a well set up ground where the pitch is lower than the entrance and the clubhouse, similar to Hendon’s Silver Jubilee Park ground. Watford ladies also share the ground which has no doubt helped add investment in the facilities. There are covered areas for seating and standing as well as an elevated section close to the entrance.
Kings leave Hendon feeling blue
Kings have been in good form this month with three consecutive league wins over Staines, Weymouth, and Farnborough following their last league loss to Poole Town. Hendon’s form, on the other hand, has been a little patchy after an encouraging start for their new-look side. Their last league win was a 5-1 demolition of Staines which has subsequently been followed by draws against Tiverton and Beaconsfield and then a 3-1 defeat to Gosport. Hendon were in touch with the leaders in fifth, despite the poor run while Kings were in 16th place before kick off.
Hendon, in blue away kit despite no kit clash, came out of the traps quickly in wet conditions although they were finding it harder than their hosts to judge their passes on the soggy surface. This is another tick for my burgeoning theory that teams that play on plastic take a while to settle on grass, and vice versa. Hendon were clearly looking to play on their attacking strengths. They left themselves fairly open in midfield though and Kings soon twigged. A dynamic, direct run from Weiss led to the first shot on goal.
Kings began to have a lot of success running at pace into the holes in Hendon’s middle. They soon had the lead. Weiss picked up the ball again and was clearly looking to run at the heart of the visitor’s defence. The Hendon midfielder didn’t seem to pick up on this, or the forward, and Weiss was allowed into shooting range. He fired off a fierce drive that was straight at the Hendon keeper. The sodden grass took over and the ball, unfortunately, slipped underneath Boness.
Hendon continued to attack and Bayley Brown began to take hold of the midfield area forcing Kings to play out from the back more. Hendon pressed well and Hippolyte-Patrick had a powerful shot saved by the Kings keeper. A few minutes later the visitors were level. Calcutt powered onto a ball over the top. As he tried to shoot the ball fell to Cole Brown who levelled the scores.
It felt like the balance of the game had shifted, but Kings soon struck again. Another more direct move played in Howe. He worked himself into space and just as he was about to shoot Tingay pulled him back. A penalty was awarded and the visitors were down to 10 men. Ward confidently gave the home side the lead from the spot.
The second half was a more balanced affair with Brown still managing to keep Hendon fairly solid in midfield. Kings knocked the ball around well looking for opportunities to strike at Hendon’s three-man defence. They had a couple of chances but eventually, Ward-Slater was played in and he scored with a composed finish. Hunte hit the post late on for the visitors, but in truth, they didn’t muster much in the second half despite looking more solid.
Hendon stay in fifth but miss out on the chance to close the gap on some of the teams above them. Kings move up to 12th with a game or two in hand over a few of the teams around them. They are now only seven points off the playoff positions.