Hendon ended a number of embarrassing runs on Saturday by beating Slough Town 2-0 at Stag Meadow, Windsor. Although the Greens didn't move up the table, this thoroughly deserved victory kept them in touch with a group of six clubs two points, or less, ahead.
The Greens have now lost only once in their last seven Ryman League matches, but the nine-game spell without a Ryman League victory, dating back to 3 September, ended. Others broken runs include: first League clean sheet since a goalless draw with Worthing on 16 April, first two-goal League victory since 7 April (coincidentally also away to Slough) and first Saturday two-goal League win since 3 April 2004 (a 3-1 home win over Maidenhead United).
With Danny Julienne suspended, Hendon made just one change to the starting line-up, Dave Hunt taking over. Dave King and Marvyn Watson came onto the bench in place of the promoted Hunt and the departed Billy Matthews, who has joined Northwood.
Hendon started much the brighter, playing into the wind, but with the Stag Meadow slope in their favour. In the 16th minute, Hunt ran onto a loose ball and drilled a 25-yard drive which Michael Parkin tipped aside at full stretch.
Two minutes later Hendon took the lead. Breaking quickly out of defence, Jeff Campbell found John Frendo in the centre circle. Danny Murphy was screaming for a pass to the left, but Frendo opted for a diagonal pass to the right, inviting Ricci Crace to take on the chance.
He certainly didn't waste it. Running clear of the defence, Crace looked up, saw Parkin coming quickly off his line and hit an early low shot. Parkin was surprised by the early shot and could not get down in time to make a save. It was a clinical finish, belying the lack of confidence displayed by Hendon's strikers in recent weeks.
Slough were happy to defend quite deep and concede corners, a dubious tactic given the panic that ensued whenever Iain Duncan, Campbell or Murphy crossed the ball in. One effort from Campbell was punched clear by Parkin after it had hit the crossbar and a big inswinger from Murphy had almost gone over the goalline by the Parkin, under great pressure from Mark Cooper, knocked it away.
The best chance for Slough in the first half was a header by veteran Steve Daly from a cross by former Hendon wide man Leon Woodruffe, but Sean Thomas was more than equal to the effort.
Two minutes into the second half, Frendo fired inches wide of Parkin's left post with the goalkeeper well beaten. And it wouldn't be long before he was picking the ball out of the net again.
In the 49th minute, Woodruffe took on Duncan down the left wing. Marc Leach came across to assist and, between them, they won possession. The ball was fed up the right touchline to Ross Pickett, who wasted no time in sending the ball towards Campbell. He looked up and delivered a beautiful 35-yard pass into the path of Murphy, charging up the left wing.
Murphy delivered a cross to the near post where Crace tried flick a header into the far corner of the goal, but the ball bounced off his shoulder and looped across the six-yard box. No Slough defender was close enough to do anything about Hunt's run into the penalty area and he side-footed home from 10 yards. It was a magnificent piece of incisive counter-attacking, the type of which Hendon had fallen prey to frequently this season.
However, Murphy undid all his good work in the 53rd minute. He was fouled by Ian Hodge inside his own penalty area and had already been awarded a free kick. But he lashed out and caught Hodge with his boot around the waist. Hodge went down and, after the furore had subsided, Murphy was shown the red card. With the stoppages that were to ensue, Hendon had 46 minutes to survive with ten men.
For nine minutes, the Greens kept the same nine outfielders on the pitch, with Campbell at left back in a five-man defence. But RenÃƒÂ© Street's arrival at the expense of the sacrificed Frendo, allowed a natural centre-half to slot that spot and James Parker could move to left-back.
The Rebels laid siege on the Hendon goal, but didn't have the nous or the know-how to crack a determined back line. The Greens didn't help themselves by failing to hang onto the ball but Pickett and Crace, the two most advanced players worked ever so hard.
With 12 minutes to go, Jimmy Froud took over from the exhausted Crace and, almost immediately, Thomas made a fine save from Slough debutant Gareth McCleary. Another chance went begging moments later, though it was hard to tell whether it was a post, a defender near the line or the goalkeeper that kept the ball out.
Things became even more frantic when Street limped off, to be replaced by Andy Cook, and Thomas also required lengthy treatment. The goalkeeper was able to continue.
In the last ten minutes, Hendon actually looked the more likely to score. Froud fired inches wide with one shot and Parkin produced another excellent save to deny Hunt again.
A delighted manager Gary McCann said, "We really needed that victory and I think we thoroughly deserved it. We can really build on a victory like this.
"I have no complaints about the red card. Danny retaliated and he has apologised to his teammates for his act of petulance.
"The performance was good and we dug in when we had to. Everybody was there, prepared to dig together and to give their all."