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Hendon slipped to a third straight Ryman League defeat when losing 2-0 at Leyton on Boxing Day. There was practically nothing to choose between the two teams in the middle 70 yards of the pitch, but in the final 20 at each end, it was no contest, with the home team in control of both.
The opening 20 minutes were an arm-wrestle, with both teams probing unsuccessfully for opportunities. Dave King competently dealt with a couple of high balls, while anything Hendon put into the Leyton box disappeared at great speed downfield, normally after leaving the powerful boot or head of Scott Honeyball.
A reverse ball from Byron Bubb gave Ricci Crace a great chance to give Hendon the lead as he for once lost his marker. His shot, however, was at perfect height to allow James Hasell to make a flying save. The rebound fell to Dave Hunt, but his header was optimistic in the extreme and Hasell dived to make another save although the ball was bouncing well wide of the goal.
Out of nothing, in the 38th minute, Leyton took the lead. An attack from Simon Peddie down the right flank resulted in a cross which Leli Bajada reached before a Hendon defender. The ball bounced in the penalty area and James Bunn followed up bravely to knock it over the line, injuring himself in the process.
Although he was able to resume, Bunn made it clear it was only temporary, but he was not the only striker in trouble. Hendon's Crace picked up a leg injury and the referee's half-time whistle went with both teams having substitutes ready to enter the fray.
Albano Correia and Jimmy Froud started the second half, with Hendon possibly missing a trick in not sending on either Good or Cooper and moving the more experienced Pickett into a forward role.
Hendon's difficulties continued with deliveries into the penalty area. Balls from neither Bubb nor Ben Hudell were particularly dangerous because the slight Froud and O'Brien were getting nothing against Honeyball and Dean Chandler and with neither Andy Cook nor Hunt able to add much to the attack from midfield, it was a no-contest in the Leyton penalty area.
At the other end, Bajada and Correia enjoyed many more opportunities when the ball came into the box. King had already made a couple of excellent reflex saves when, after 57 minutes, Leyton carved open the Greens defence and poached another goal.
This time the move came down the left wing, from where George Sifonios crossed under no pressure. He found Bajada at the far post and although King was able to parry his close-range effort, he could do nothing about the rebound which fell to Correia and he netted with ease.
Cooper replaced Bubb midway through the second half, but Pickett couldn't inject himself into the game for a while. It wasn't until the final ten minutes that Hendon exerted any serious pressure on the Leyton goal and then Hasell had to make only one save of note, a strike from Hudell.
With five minutes to go, Hasell came racing off his line to deal with a through ball. Pickett pulled out of the challenge with the goalkeeper, who stayed down after smearing the ball into touch. With all their changes made, Hasell, who admitted he had twised his knee without any contact from the Hendon man, had to continue and he finished the game without being tested further.
"Two moments of defensive indiscipline cost us today," reflected a disappointed manager Gary McCann. "But the real difference between the two sides was the quality in the penalty areas and we were second best in both."