Hendon's interest in the Middlesex Senior Cup ended at a freezing Chestnut Avenue, Northwood on Tuesday night. The result wasn't what the Greens either wanted or deserved, but a combination of bad luck and poor judgement conspired against them.
With Steve Good recalled from his loan by Braintree Town, Hendon had to reshuffle the back three and RenÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â© Street made his appearance for almost two months since breaking his ankle. No less than five former Hendon men were on Northwood's team sheet and four started.
John Frendo started his final match before he joined Broxbourne Borough and, after five minutes, he was unlucky to see a powerful shot blocked by Jason O'Connor, inside the penalty area.
The Greens should have been behind inside two minutes when Alistair Heselton somehow failed to hit the target after he had beaten the offside trap and went around Dave King.
Northwood's opening goal, after 19 minutes, was another piece of misfortune for Hendon. Peter Dean did well to create the opening, but his shot did not appear too difficult for King to deal with. The keeper, however, was undone by a truly awful bobble that not only changed the ball's direction, but its speed too, and although King probably should have been able to push the ball aside for a corner, he was so surprised by the bounce that he let the ball roll into the corner of the goal.
After 24 minutes, another former Hendon man, Shayne Demetrious, picked up an injury following a midfield challenge and yet another ex Green, Dave Nolan entered the fray as a substitute.
Andy Cook nearly equalised for Hendon after half an hour when he did well to make space and he first a 25-yard drive which beat Watson all ends up. The ball crashed off the underside of the crossbar and fell straight to Blaise O'Brien, but it took a little too long to arrive and by the time the striker had been able to redirect it goalwards, a defender had got to the goalline and was able to clear.
Having dominated the last 20 minutes of the first half, Hendon continued to dominate after the restart. In the 48th minute, John Frendo received a free-kick just outside of the penalty area and his path to goal was eased by his marked slipping and falling to the ground. Frendo turned and as he entered the penalty area, the defender pulled him down with a two-armed rugby tackle. It must be added that as he went to ground in the grasp of the defender, Frendo handled the ball. The officials ruled the Frendo had committed the first offence and awarded a free-kick to Northwood.
Hendon's equaliser came in the 58th minute and was a very scrappy affair. A low cross from O'Brien was fumbled by Watson, who palmed the ball into the path of Gary Meakin and the former Hendon man knocked it into the net for an own goal.
For the rest of the regulation 90 minutes, Hendon looked much the stronger, but a succession of chances were missed, the best of which fell to O'Brien in stoppage time. He had only Watson to beat, but his low shot was blocked by the goalkeeper's legs.
The game moved into extra time and the turning point came after six minutes of the first period. Frendo turned and got half a yard advantage on Meakin as he ran in on goal. Watson came out and he bravely saved at the forward's feet, but then had the misfortune to be smashed in the face by the covering Meakin. The goalkeeper suffered a suspected broken nose and concussion, needing half a dozen minutes of treatment before being led dazed from the pitch. Nolan took over in goal.
Hendon made their last substitution at this time, all of them having been forced by injury or exhaustion. The result was that each change affected the defence and midfield and players were forced to play out of position.
It proved very costly because, in the last minute of first period stoppage time, Mark Cooper conceded a free-kick which was curled into the penalty area. No defender picked up either of two Northwood forwards and Heselton diverted the ball into the bottom corner of the net.
This broke the back of the Hendon resistance and in the second period of extra time, King produced a brilliant save to deny Harry Howell and both Heselton and Dean should have scored in one-on-ones but missed the target.
"We got almost no luck when it mattered," said manager Gary McCann. "But we had chances to win the game in normal time and didn't take them."