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Hendon's 80-year-life at Claremont Road - at least in terms of first team competitive fixtures - came to a sad and disappointing end on Saturday afternoon as they went down to a 1-0 defeat against AFC Wimbledon. The spectre of relegation took a huge step towards reality as the teams in other leagues battling against the dreaded "worst 19th place finish" picked up points, leaving the Greens' destiny out of their hands.
A positive was the attendance: 1,444 represents the club's biggest home league gate for more than 30 years and it may well have been even higher if it hadn't been for the fact that Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea were playing live matches on television immediately before or after the game at Claremont Road.
The Greens made three changes for the game despite the victory on Easter Monday, although two were enforced. Lee O'Leary was injured and Jeff Campbell could not play because of an arrangement between Hendon and Wimbledon when the Kiwi international switched clubs last autumn. In addition Danny Edwards was named as substitute. The replacements were Andy Cook, Charlie Mapes and Ross Pickett, giving a more experienced look to the team.
AFC Dons started much the better and forced the Hendon defence into serious work for most of the opening quarter-hour. However, their first effort on target didn't come until the 17th minute, when the ever-dangerous Paul Barnes forced Rikki Banks into making a fine save.
Six minutes later, however, Hendon should have taken the lead. Andy Little went too far in stretching to reach a right-wing cross and, under pressure from Pickett, dropped the ball. Pickett had time to steady himself before shooting, but then went for power rather placement and blasted his shot over the almost unguarded goal from a narrow angle.
In the 30th minute, Banks pulled off another fine save to deny Barnes for the second time. The game was becoming more even in terms of possession, but Greens still looked punchless up front and the former Hendon duo of Micky Woolner and Antony Howard rarely looked troubled or under pressure.
As the game moved into first-half stoppage time, Hendon were given a great chance to take control of the game. A bouncing ball on the half-way line, near to the two dugouts, resulted in a tussle between Cook and Scott Curley. For a reason known only to himself, Curley threw an elbow into Cook's face, sending the tall midfielder staggering away.
Players from both sides milled around in anger at the challenge after which Curley walked over to the referee and, after the briefest of lectures, was shown a red card. Such was the nature of the offence that none of the Wimbledon team or bench offered any protests at the decision.
Hendon, however, were simply unable to make the tiniest impression on the short-handed Dons. Their inability to hit the target with goal attempts meant that Little did not have to make a single save all afternoon and the quality of crossing was also such that the goalkeeper's aerial ability was rarely tested either.
After 55 minutes, a nice interchange of passes set up Mapes for a half-chance, but he failed to get good contact on the ball and it looped just wide of the far post. Little would have struggled to reach it the ball if it had been better directed and struck with authority.
Four minutes, later Jamie Busby tried his luck with a shot, but it flew wide. From the goal kick resulted, the game was decided. Little found Barnes out on the right wing. It wasn't an easy ball to control, but he did so expertly and quickly turned to go past Danny Murphy.
Having worked himself into some space, he delivered an inch-perfect pass into the path of Richard Butler, who had sprinted past the last line of Hendon defenders. Butler kept his composure and slipped the ball past Banks to break the deadlock, initiating a roar from the mass of travelling supporters that could be clearly heard more than half a mile away.
The Dons, having taken the lead, became slightly more defensive, playing with two solid banks and relying on quick breakaways. It worked a treat because while the visitors' defence was busier, their attack was far more dangerous. Two loud appeals for penalties were turned away as lone strikers tussled with Hendon defenders Mark Cooper and James Burgess.
In the 74th minute, Wimbledon almost doubled their lead. Good lead-up play led to the ball falling at the feet of Robert Ursell and he shot powerfully at goal. The effort was again on target, but Banks was equal to the task of pulling off a fine save.
Edwards and Ricci Crace were introduced for the final quarter, but they got no change out of the defence and Crace also picked up a caution for a challenge that was made out of desperation rather than malice.
The last real chance for Hendon fell to Dave Hunt, who had time to steady himself before shooting from 20-odd yards out. Once again, the accuracy was not there and the ball flew narrowly over the angle of post and crossbar. Jimmy Froud came on for the last few minutes, replacing defender Murphy, but he couldn't make any impact either.
"We huffed and we puffed but we couldn't blow their house down," said disappointed manager Gary McCann. "I have said the same thing for many weeks, but the simple fact is that we are do not create enough good chances.
"I look at the players we have lost during the season - Eugene Ofori, John Frendo and Ricci Crace - who didn't play between Christmas and Easter - and can't help feeling that they would have scored just enough goals to have kept us out of the relegation fight."