Hendon slipped into the bottom three of the Ryman League Premier Division and remain winless in league action following their narrow 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Billericay Town on Saturday. While the solid and normally well-marshalled defence probably didn't deserve to lose, the lack of firepower and inability to force consistent pressure meant that the result was probably correct.
The starting 11 was exactly the same as overcame Arlesey Town in the FA Cup a week earlier, and the only change was on the bench, where new signing Ian Hilaire, who was with Margate last season, replaced Ryan Wharton. Billericay included Steve Heffer - a Hendon player 13 seasons ago - in their line-up.
Billericay started the game brightly and should have been two goals to the good in the opening 10 minutes. After four minutes, a completely unmarked Nathan Elder headed a Lee Hodges cross wide of the goal. He tried to place the ball just inside the near post but got his angle slightly wrong.
Three minutes later, a good move down the right resulted in a clear shot a goal for Rikki Burbridge. His low drive beat Richard Wilmot, but not the covering Wayne O'Sullivan, who made a superb goalline clearance. Wilmot then made a good save to keep out a header from Elder.
Having weathered the storm, Hendon began to claw their way into the game. Unfortunately, the partnership between Ross Pickett and Jermaine Hunter did not gel, mainly because the latter could not find space to help his captain. And when Hunter got the ball, he was all too easily dispossessed by the first defender.
Dean Green had Hendon's first on-target effort, a powerful 20-yard strike that may well have been goalbound but was blocked by Darren Blewitt a couple of yards away. Whether he used his face or his hand is a moot point; he didn't have a chance to move either out of the way.
In the 35th minute, Lee O'Leary brought Billy McMahon to his knees with an accurate shot, but the goalkeeper would have had to dive out of the way for the ball to beat him and go into the net.
Just before half-time, Wilmot made a superb save from a Leon Hunter free-kick - needlessly conceded by O'Sullivan - just by his near post. By this time James Parker was already struggling, having picked up a knock, and when he went off after 51 minutes, he was the second enforced Hendon change, Green having been replaced by Hilaire at the interval.
This second change caused a major reshuffle, with Takumi Ake coming on in an attacking midfield role and Pickett dropping back to partner Jazz Rose and Craig Vargas. Defensively, Hendon didn't really miss a beat with the change, but up front there was a complete lack of penetration.
That being said, Billericay didn't know how to deal with a couple of rampaging runs from O'Sullivan. In the 65th minute, he went 65 yards through the heart of the Blues' defence before being stopped by a sprawling McMahon just before he could get off a shot.
However, Billericay did look dangerous on the counter-attack, especially when Joe Flack and Dave Collins replaced Burbridge and Hodges midway through the second half. Burbridge had already missed an excellent chance, sidefooting wide from an excellent position.
In the 80th minute, O'Leary brought the ball forward, looked for support, but was dispossessed by Heffer, who immediately sent the ball out to Collins on the left wing. Collins went around O'Sullivan with ease, danced past Pickett and passed low into the middle of the penalty area, where Leon Hunter sidefooted home with a deft, first-time touch.
Jamie Busby soon replaced James Burgess and both Rakatahr Hudson and Pickett moved further forward as Hendon looked for an equaliser, but the Billericay defence remained resolute as always and there was barely a half-chance created by the frustrated Greens.
"I thought the way we defended, we deserved a draw today," said manager Gary McCann. "After the first 15 minutes, I thought we matched them and they only scored when we started to attack more."