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Hendon's interest in the FA Trophy came to its predictable end at Champion Hill, Dulwich, on Friday night, but Fisher Athletic had to be at their very best to overcome the Greens 4-2. That was the opinion of Fisher boss Wayne Burnett who felt his team had reached new levels of quality for an hour.
The Greens made four changes from the starting line-up which had drawn with Maldon Town in midweek. James Parker, Marc Leach, Ricci Crace and Danny Murphy made way for Mark Burgess, RenÃƒÆ’Ã‚Æ’Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â© Street, John Frendo and Danny Julienne, respectively. Leach, on loan, was not allowed to play, while Crace was injured; the other two were named to the bench.
Fisher almost made the perfect start. It took them barely 20 seconds to find their way around the back of the Hendon defence, but Burgess put the ball out for a corner. When the ball was knocked into the box, Hendon didn't clear the ball properly and a snap-shot eluded Dave King, ending up in the back of the net. The assistant referee ruled that King's view had been impeded by a phantom Fisher forward directly in front of him, so the "goal" was ruled out.
It was the first of two strokes of luck that went Hendon's way in the first 11 minutes. Ten minutes after nearly going behind, the Greens took the lead. A shot from Jeff Campbell was going wide of the goal. However, the ball struck Andy Cook on the rump and deflected into the opposite corner of the goal.
Hendon's reaction to taking the lead was to give it back 100 seconds later. Another corner was swung in by Ben Walshe, but this time it went beyond the far post. King tried to get to the ball but went over his head. Had there been anyone even remotely close to Tim Clancey, the central defender might have had trouble in scoring, but as he was all alone, Clancey was able, pretty much, to pick his spot to equalise.
Steve Watts had a goal ruled out for offside after 32 minutes, but another electric break out of defence by Fisher gave them the lead three minutes later. This time, Chris Piper danced around the exposed King and rolled the ball forward to where Walshe was standing. The ball would almost certainly have gone into the net without Walshe's intervention, but he made sure anyway. Quite how the assistant believed that Walshe was not interfering with play as he got the decisive touch is hard to understand.
The only errors in Fisher's third goal, after 41 minutes, were in Hendon's defending, or rather the almost complete lack of it. Watts will rarely have an easier opportunity to score than the one he took with a far-post header. He was all alone as Chris Piper's perfectly-weighted cross reached him.
Hendon switched their formation slightly at the start of the second half, Cook moving into a central striking role in a bid to unsettle the Fisher defence. It did work once, but unfortunately Fisher scored from it. Cook's back-header almost let in Craig Hughes, but Francis Duku cleared hurriedly.
The ball went to Piper, who again got the better of the Hendon defence and his cross gave Watts another simple chance to add to his goal tally. He didn't miss and that just about decided the tie.
The unorthodox offside interpretation by the assistant referee ruled Frendo offside despite the fact that he ran past a line of four defenders after a shot from Dave Hunt had caught Ryan Kirby in the face. Packham made a superb save off the deflection and when Frendo reached the ball, he was incorrectly ruled to be offside.
Jeff Campbell then was denied by another deflection and Packham save, as well as drilling two free-kicks narrowly wide of the target, but Hendon did make things interesting after 70 minutes, when Frendo struck a 20 yard shot into the bottom corner of the net.
Three half-chances fell to the Greens in the last 20-odd minutes - while Fisher had a similar number of their own at the other end - in a thoroughly entertaining conclusion to the game. Had Hendon made it 4-3 with less than a couple of minutes remaining, it would have set up a grandstand finish. But, in truth, Hendon were fortunate to be as close as only two goals behind at this stage.
"Today, they were simply too good for us," admitted manager Gary McCann. "Sometimes you have to just put your hands up and admit it. It is a little consolation that their manager told me that this was the best that they had played all season"