Hendon and Folkestone Invicta played out a dour 0-0 draw in a match dominated by a vicious wind that ensured neither team could play much meaningful football. With the teams above winning and those below losing, Hendon are now isolated in 19th place, nine points above automatic relegation, but six behind guaranteed safety. Factor in goal difference and the margins are realistically 10 and seven, respectively.
An unchanged starting 11 took the field, though the substitutes' bench did include newcomer Lee O'Leary, a new signing from Brook House who had previously played, and scored, at Claremont Road in the Ryman League Premier Division, albeit for Wealdstone.
The first opening of the game fell to Folkestone, who were playing into the teeth of the wind, blowing diagonally from corner to corner. It was a deep cross from James Everitt almost caught out Dave King as it hung in the breeze, but the goalkeeper was able to backtrack and tip the ball over the crossbar before it dropped below it.
Thereafter Hendon had the better of the exchanges, but lacked the cutting edge to make a breakthrough. Darren Watson was unlucky to see a header from a Jeff Campbell corner bounce off the top of the crossbar, but efforts on target were few and far between.
Folkestone were content to hold on in the first half and packed the midfield and defence. A Charlie Mapes free-kick then caused a moment's consternation for Invicta keeper Tony Kessell. The ball bent late and went a couple of yards wide of the far post, but Kessell was rooted to the spot.
Just before half-time, Michael Barima worked himself a shooting chance and drove a low effort at goal. Kessell had his body in line with the shot as he got both hands to the ball, but he nearly fumbled it away.
Hendon's performance in the second half was much improved. As Folkestone tried to open the game up, so the Greens decided to keep the ball away from the wind by passing along the ground and the tactic had some success. One 14-pass move had the Invicta defence struggling, but the final ball wasnÃ¯Â¿Â½t quite right and the chance went begging.
The bumpy pitch gave Hendon a scare after 52 minutes, when King attempted to control the ball outside his penalty area. He was almost caught in possession and then mishit a clearance straight to an opponent. The ball was passed to Flanagan, who shot at the unguarded goal from 50 yards out. He missed the target by half a dozen yards, much to HendonÃ¯Â¿Â½s relief.
Watson had another chance a couple of minutes later, set up by Blaise O'Brien, but Adam Flanagan did enough to put him off as the striker was about to shoot and the ball bobbled into Kessell's arms.
With an hour gone, Andy Cook replaced Campbell. with a view to adding some strength to the midfield. Six minutes later, Folkestone went for a more attacking option, replacing Chandler with Matt Carruthers.
In the 70th minute, Hendon won a free-kick in a dangerous position, but the opportunity was wasted when Mapes rolled the ball towards Watson on the edge of the penalty area. Lee Shearer was able not only to clear the danger before Watson could react - who would not have much chance of doing anything with the ball - but also set up a counter-attack which came to nothing when the ball was played to the right where defenders were back-tracking. Had the pass gone the other way, it would have set up a one-on-one situation.
O'Leary immediately replaced Watson, moving Cook forward and it almost produced the desired result. Danny Murphy and Mapes linked up down the left and the former's cross was just too high for OÃ¯Â¿Â½Brien. Unfortunately for Hendon, the ball then struck Cook on the forehead. It appeared that he did not see the ball, coming out of the dipping sun, before he made contact with it because, had Cook turned his head goalwards, he would have had a great scoring chance.
O'Brien had two scoring chances in quick succession. On the first occasion he fired over the bar with a speculative shot; then he forced Kessell into a routine save.
As the game moved into stoppage time, Murphy was injured in the Invicta penalty area. He was already going down when Mark Corneville challenged him legally and Murphy's leg was bent under him. Stretchered off, Murphy was taken to hospital for x-rays, which showed no break, but there was the possibility of ankle ligament damage.
If Hendon's late penalty appeal, for the challenge on Murphy, was hopeful, then Folkestone's claim was entirely justified and the Greens were distinctly grateful that the referee ruled there was nothing untoward as James Parker appeared to hold back Carruthers as he ran towards a pass in the penalty area.
Invicta fans had already felt aggrieved when King had bundled over Folkestone players as he went for crosses, without punishment, but had been awarded free-kicks for minimal contact on him.
Then, in the last seconds of stoppage time, Dave Hunt had a great chance to win the game for Hendon, but from a good shooting position, he went for power over placement and the shot flew over the crossbar.
"It was an ugly day for football," said Hendon manager Gary McCann. "I thought we were very poor in the first half, but were much better in the second half. Our passing was very good when we were playing into the wind."