Hendon produced their most complete performance of the season in defeating title-favourites Fisher Athletic at Champion Hill, Dulwich, on Saturday afternoon. The victory was as deserved as it was surprising, given that the Greens came into the game on the back of a five-match Ryman League Premier Divison losing streak.
Dave King returned to the team in place of Sean Thomas and Steve Good was recalled to the starting line-up when Mark Cooper dropped out after falling ill. They were the only changes to the team after the brave but narrow defeat against Braintree a week earlier.
As a match, it must be said it was something of a non-event. In terms of goalscoring opportunities, the half-time tally was zero to both sides. If there had been a shot on goal it so lacked power that the goalkeeper making a save had time to walk across his goalline to pick it up on the second or third bounce.
King did have to leave his area to head clear one speculative downfield pass, but apart from that it was hard to imagine either goalkeeper having broken sweat. Perspiration there was aplenty in the midfield as James Burgess, Danny Julienne and Andy Cook battled to win control.
In defence, Ross Pickett, James Parker and Good were outstanding in keeping quiet two of the most dangerous and highly-valued forwards at this level: Leroy Griffiths and Steve West. The Piper brothers, Chris and Lenny were kept quiet by wing-backs Iain Duncan and Danny Murphy and Fisher's most dangerous player was Damien Scannell, who attacked menacingly out of midfield.
Blaise O'Brien and Jermaine Hunter got little joy out of the Fisher defence, but they worked tirelessly looking for openings. There weren't even any nasty fouls or moments of controversy to record.
It took all of 15 seconds of the second half for the first real chance to come and it went Hendon's way. Fisher goalkeeper James Pullen mishit a clearance straight at O'Brien, 30 yards from goal. The young striker controlled the ball well and hit a first-time shot back at the almost-unguarded goal.
Pullen was sprinting back to cover the target and would have reached anything in the right half of the target. But O'Brien had aimed for the left side and dragged the ball a yard wide of the goal. The ball crossed the goalline with Pullen half-a-dozen yards from it.
Chances still weren't coming and the match reverted to its first-half stalemate. The Hendon fans and bench were certainly the happier with the direction of the game, because a point would have been an acceptable return from such a difficult game as this.
The one point turned to three midway through the second half. Francis Duku failed to properly control the ball 15 yards outside his penalty area. It bounced straight to Hunter, who controlled it instantly.
Cook timed his run from midfield absolutely perfectly and Hunter's pass to him was slide-rule accurate. Having gone clear of the last defender, Cook had only Pullen to beat and this he did with a simple side-foot. The ball bobbled its way into the bottom corner of the net, seemingly taking an age to finally cross the line.
Strangely, there was no strong response from Fisher. Under the management of Justin Edinburgh, the Fish seemed content to wait for the Hendon defence to make an error rather than forcing the pace.
Instead it was Hendon who got another goal. Hunter was released down the inside-left channel and left Duku trailing in his wake. Pullen came off his line and made a brave smothering block, one which effectively kept Fisher in the match.
Fisher responded with two incisive moves. The first saw King fumble a save from a Scannell shot, but he recovered quickly enough to thwart Griffiths, who sniffed the chance of an equaliser. The tall goalkeeper then produced a brilliant save to keep out a drive from Charlie Hearn, but an offside flag rendered the block needless.
Edinburgh made his final substitution, introducing new signing Charley Taylor. It nearly had the desired effect when, in the last minute of normal time Taylor struck a low shot that beat King, but struck the inside of the far post before bouncing up for a defender to clear.
In the scramble, a Fisher player was injured. He was treated for a few seconds, just enough for the full 90 minutes to come up and this was noteworthy because it was the first time either trainer had come onto the pitch and - two substitutions and the Hendon goal apart - it was the first time referee Ashley Slaughter (Brighton) - who had a magnificent match - had to stop his watch.
Hendon delayed matters for a few more seconds in the added time when Bradley Bubb replaced Hunter. But there was barely time for him to touch the ball before the final whistle was blown.
A delighted Hendon manager Gary McCann said, "We carried on from last week - when we were desperately unlucky to get nothing from the game - and we thoroughly deserved what we got today. What goes around comes around and today we got that little bit of luck we need in our box when the ball hit the post. This was possibly our best overall performance of the season."