Hendon could not back up their consecutive clean sheets with a third one and slipped to a 1-0 defeat against a surging Heybridge Swifts team that was top of the Ryman League Premier Division form table at Claremont Road on Saturday. Swifts probably just shaded the game, if only because their passing and approach play was more clinical than the Greens', who were very sloppy in the first half.
The x-rays on James Parker, injured on Tuesday, proved negative, but he was not fit to play, so Mark Cooper regained his place in an otherwise unchanged starting eleven. On the bench, Danny Julienne came in for the injured Byron Bubb.
The game was effectively as early as the fourth minute. The Hendon defence failed to deal with an attack down the left wing and Neil Cousins' cross was met at the near post by Sean Marks, who had no marker close to him as a flicked a header past Dave King.
Heybridge twice came close to adding to their lead before half an hour had elapsed. Both again came from out wide, firstly when Neil Cousins profited from an attempted clearance rebounding back towards the Hendon goal and his left wing lob was cleared off the line by Danny Murphy. Then, a shot from Simon Glover on the right wing - albeit at a very tight angle - bounced off a post and was eventually cleared to safety.
Hendon's passing was a real disappointment in the first half. A number of quite promising moves died when the final pass was overhit or badly misdirected, leaving John Frendo and Blaise O'Brien somewhat frustrated.
The second half saw a significant improvement in Hendon's performance and they may have just shaded it. Heybridge, however, with six straight victories coming into the game, had the confidence - and the lead - to continue playing in their own style. Paul Nicholls organised the defence in front of him with constant information and his rapid and accurate distribution allowed Swifts to build at pace.
Nicholls made his first save in the 60th minute, and it was an excellent one too. Frendo was sent into a gap by a superb back-heel from Iain Duncan and the striker had only the keeper to beat. Correctly guessing Frendo would shoot low, Nicholls spread himself and blocked the shot; if Frendo had lifted the ball as little as a couple of yards in the air, he would surely have scored.
Two minutes later, Nicholls had to leap high to his right to catch a swerving 25-yard drive from Jeff Campbell. The goalkeeper's unfussy save made a good shot look routine.
With 11 minutes to go, Hendon's lack of good fortune in front of goal appeared again. Frendo charged down a clearance from Nicholls and the ball struck a fleshy - as opposed to bony - part of his anatomy. The result was that the ball was cleared from close to the line by Danny Barber, with Frendo half a yard behind the defender.
Hendon did have two very good penalty shouts turned down late in the game. Both came as a result of long throw-ins from Steve Good and, on both occasions, it was Andy Cook who was manhandled by a defender.
The feeling was they were both fouls which would have been awarded outside the penalty area, but not inside the box, when penalties would have resulted.
As the game moved into stoppage time, Hendon were awarded a free-kick 20 yards outside the penalty area. King came up to add his great height to the Hendon attack and the ball picked him out perfectly. Although King oujumped Nicholls and reached the ball first, a Swifts defender was able to punch it clear.
Despite seven minutes of increasingly frantic stoppage time, during which Ross Pickett and Dave Hunt became third and fourth attackers, Heybridge were able to hang on. Their celebrations on the final whistle made it clear how hard they had been made to work for the victory.
"We can't allow teams like this to build a platform with such an early goal," said manager Gary McCann. "I thought we were worth a draw with our performance. I can't criticise the effort, or the commitment, but I was disappointed with our passing; it was as bad today as it had been good in the last two games."