|Competition:||Isthmian League Premier Division|
|Date:||Saturday 10 December 2016|
Hendon seem to be in a one step forward, two steps back mode as they were well beaten by fellow strugglers Leatherhead at Silver Jubilee Park. The Greens, 2-0 down at half-time, rarely looked like fighting back and now are the only team without a home win in Ryman League competition.
More worryingly, with one of the worst goal differences in the Premier Division, the Dons dropped to just one place outside of the relegation zone - and without the earlier cushion of games in hand.
The departure of Oliver Sprague to Billericay meant there was one enforced change to Hendon's starting line-up, and there were a couple of others, too. Luke Tingey came in at left-back, while Karl Oliyide and Andre Da Costa took over from Spencer McCall and Josh Passley.
The bench comprised Kevin Maclaren McCall, and a trio of new signings, Reis Stanislaus (from Worthing), Leon Smith (back for a second spell) and Aaron Tumwa (on loan from Margate). In the end, neither Maclaren nor Tumwa were used.
On a dank, dismal afternoon, Hendon's play matched the weather, while Leatherhead made a confident start. It took them just five minutes to turn the good start into a great one.
Hendon were sloppy in possession and a short pass from Mo Sagaf went to Anthony Mendes 25 yards from goal, level with the left edge of the penalty area. He dribbled the ball towards the middle of the field, watched - but not challenged - by Hendon's central players in midfield or defence.
As he looked for an angle to shoot, Mendes's run took him to the right edge of the "D". Here, he took aim and fired, sending a low shot beyond Darren Behcet's dive and into the bottom corner.
Hendon continued to misfire and could not string together a set of passes. Sam Murphy and Keagan Cole tried to probe into attack spaces, flanked by Da Costa and Oliyide, but when the ball reached the feet of Kezie Ibe, he had Joe Howe right at his back and two other Leatherhead men in close attendance.
The Tanners had a new signing of their own, Danny Murphy, whose career included Queens Park Rangers, Cork City and Motherwell. His link with Sagaf made things very difficult for Jamie Smith and Da Costa, often dragging Brad Hewitt and Casey Maclaren in as extra cover.
In the 26th minute, Cole did go on a powerful run which took him past three players. He had options on either side, but there was a brief shooting opportunity, which he took, but Jerry Nnamani managed to block the ball.
Three minutes later, a dreadful piece of defending gifted a second goal to the Tanners. Fortunate to be awarded a throw-in 10 yards from their own line, the situation screamed for the ball to be sent downfield, not controlled - under pressure from Sagaf - and a short pass played.
Sagaf timed his tackle perfectly and had a clear run at goal. Although he was at an absurdly acute angle, and had D'Sean Theobald and Mendes running into good positions, Sagaf fired an arrow-like shot that nestled inside and against the far post.
Hendon's only effort at goal didn't trouble Louis Wells as Maclaren's effort went over the crossbar. The goalkeeper was tested by two or three crosses, but the only ball he failed to handle ended with a free-kick as he had been impeded on his way to deal with the danger.
Mendes and Sagaf both warmed the hands of Behcet with shots and Theobald was wide with a good chance, but the last action of the first half saw Maclaren make a hard but fair challenge on Nnamani, who stayed down. Leatherhead players thought the tackle had been dangerous, but neither the referee, nor his assistant saw anything untoward, so play resumed with a drop-ball, followed instantly by the half-time whistle.
Before the second half started, both Da Costa and the injured Nnamani were substituted, the former by McCall. Unlike on Tuesday night, when Hendon reacted positively to the half-time team-talk, this time the improvement was minimal.
That said, the Dons really should have been awarded a penalty in the first few minutes. A ball to Ibe was well controlled, but when he tried to turn, his arm was gripped.
As Chris Parr - Nnamani's replacement - pulled him to the ground, Ibe almost lost his shirt. There was no whistle from the referee and Hendon were too quickly back on the defensive to make long complaints.
Hendon made a double change midway through the half, sending on both Stanislaus and Smith. The men replaced were Ibe and Maclaren, a sign that Hendon were going all out to get back into the game, playing three at the back - Tingey, Arthur Lee and Hewitt - four in midfield and Oliyide joining the subs up front.
Unfortunately, the move backfired because, in the 73rd minute, more indifferent defending gave the Tanners a third goal. The strike from Mendes was as much speculative as spectacular and it gave Behcet no chance.
In the 80th minute, a run by Oliyide was followed by a cross which Murphy deflected out for a corner. The ball was delivered perfectly and the header goalwards was parried upwards by Wells.
As the ball dropped towards the far post, Stanislaus and Howe raced to reach it. The Hendon man won and both Stanislaus and the ball ended up in the net.
The ball was retrieved but the two players were prostrate on the ground and the referee immediately called for the two physios. Stanislaus was able to get up and walk off under his own power - more shocked than hurt by the collision - but Howe appeared to be quite seriously injured and had to be helped to the dressing room.
This stoppage had lasted a considerable period of time and, as is often the case, when there is a significant injury, play resumes at a lesser pace. The unfortunate turn of events, having lost both starting centre-halves, however, worked in Leatherhead's favour as little of note happened in the final minutes.
|11||Andre Da Costa|
|14||Reis Stanislaus||for 9 , 66|
|15||Spencer McCall||for 11 , 46|
|16||Leon Smith||for 8 , 66|
|12||Chris Parr||for 6 , 46|
|15||Jim Fenlon||for 5 , 85|
|16||Calum Davies||for 7 , 90|