Hendon's proud record over never finishing in a relegation position is looking more and more likely to end in this the club's 98th season following the 2-1 defeat against Windsor & Eton at Claremont Road on Saturday. The Greens still have some breathing space between them and both Maldon Town and Windsor, but an inability to score more than one goal in a game makes it hard to see where the points are going to come from.
There was an unchanged starting line-up for the game, although on the bench, Takumi Ake and Adilson Lopes made way for newcomer Jamie Busby and the returning Jeff Campbell.
The early part of the game looked very promising for Hendon, with the Windsor defence, facing a stiff wind, looking far from comfortable. In the 19th minute, a nice passing move saw Charlie Mapes pick out Dave Hunt beyond the far post. Hunt chested the ball into the path of the unmarked Andy Cook, who controlled the ball, looked up and smashed a shot wastefully over the crossbar.
Two minutes later, the Greens thought they had opened the scoring when Blaise O'Brien slotted a pass into the path of Ross Pickett, who took a touch before shooting past Kieron Drake. The assistant referee, however, ruled that Pickett had strayed offside and the goal was chalked off. It was a desperately close but accurate decision.
But Hendon had to wait barely a minute before taking the lead. A corner from Mapes found Hunt on the goalline, with his back to the near post. As Hunt tried to manoeuvre himself and the ball for a pass or shot, Drake ran into his back, knocking him down. The referee immediately pointed to the penalty spot. It was a soft penalty to concede in Windsor's eyes, but there was clear, illegal contact.
O'Brien stepped up and blasted the kick past Drake, the goalkeeper guessing wrong as to the ball's direction. It was O'Brien's first goal for more than two months and his joy at scoring was clear to see.
Unfortunately, Hendon's celebrations were muted within a couple of minutes when a scything tackle by Adam Wallace left Lee O'Leary unable to continue. As he struggled, so the Greens dropped Cook back into a more defensive position and this allowed Windsor to move forward. And, after James Burgess had replaced O'Leary, the initiative remained with the Royalists.
In the 38th minute, Marc Leach made a remarkable goalline clearance, somehow hooking the ball away from goal despite being almost on the line and facing the target. Hendon didn't heed the warning and in the last minute of the half, Windsor drew level when Solomon Taiwo latched onto a half-hit clearance and drilled a perfect drive just inside the far post. Dave King is several inches taller than current keeper Rikki Banks and even he would have struggled to reach the shot given its power and placement.
The second half was massively disappointing for Hendon. After 52 minutes, Wallace made another terrible challenge, this time forcing Iain Duncan out of the game for which he was shown a yellow card.
Campbell came on for Duncan and, almost immediately restored the Hendon advantage with a dipping 30-yard effort that Drake did quite well to tip over the crossbar as the ball dropped very steeply out of the steel-grey sky.
Windsor's winner arrived after 72 minutes. Clever skill by Gavin Tomlin on the edge of the penalty area took him clear of one defender, but Cooper appeared to trip him and the referee again had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Tomlin took the kick himself, but Banks made a brilliant parry. Unfortunately for the young goalkeeper, neither he, nor a covering defender were able to deny Tomlin on the rebound as the ball trickled against the post and bounced over the line.
Hendon's play became more and more desperate, but they never really looked like getting an equaliser let alone finding a way to win the game.
Gary McCann said, "I am so disappointed. I really didn't expect, but the boys let themselves and Hendon Football Club down with that display. It was a poor defensive performance and it didn't give us a chance to build a platform."