Hendon ended their pointless start to the season in a quite incredible way, coming back from 4-1 down in first half-stoppage time to inflict a 5-4 defeat on previously unbeaten Wealdstone at Northwood's Chestnut Avenue ground.
After the poor showing against Hampton, a debut was given to 20-year-old Moroccan forward Belal Aiteouakrim, while Danny Julienne came in for his first start of the season and Eugene Ofori was fit to start. Dropping out were Kieran Gallagher, Andrew Judge and Ross Pickett, the latter of whom was named on the bench.
The defence remained unchanged, however, and in the first half it looked as if this is where all the alterations should have come. After six minutes, Iain Duncan dived in to challenge Phil Turner as he was about to shoot and succeeded only in bringing him down.
Referee Mr Osborne had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot and as Wealdstone fans bayed for a red card, Duncan was relieved to see the colour was only yellow. Ryan Harris coolly slotted home the spot kick.
Almost immediately Julienne went on a good run, but he shot just wide. Wealdstone failed to heed the warning when, in the 11th minute, Julienne made a short burst, fed Aiteouakrim, who passed to John Frendo. Frendo linked up with Ofori, who was beaten to ball by Dean Harding but his clearance fell to Aiteouakrim, who took aim and buried the chance.
A panic in the Wealdstone defence led to a goalline clearance, but also offered evidence that the Hendon attack, anaemic for three games, had real teeth here. But the defensive frailties were equally clear to see. In the 20th minute, a fine ball from the right wing found an unmarked Richard Jolly and he made no mistake from close range.
Goals seemed likely every time both teams attacked and after Ofori had gone close to equalising for Hendon, the Greens' defence again failed to do their job. A 32nd-minute corner from the Wealdstone right went to the far post where Jolly outjumped three defenders and headed the ball across the six-yard box. Nobody picked up former Hendon midfielder Paul Adolphe, who was able to jump and plant a header in the net.
Two minutes later, a terrible tackle by Mark Burgess on Andy Keepence was not seen by the referee, but the Wealdsone man was unable to continue, being replaced by Dave Norman. Unpunished by the referee, Greens manager Gary McCann admitted it was a major reason for Burgess's substitution at half-time.
The fourth Wealdstone goal, in the second minute of first-half stoppage time appeared to sound the death knell for Hendon's chances. Three defenders misplaced clearances, but when Duncan put the ball at Jolly's feet, he made no mistake.
It was from the depths of a three-goal deficit that the fightback began. A delightful cross from Frendo floated invitingly for Ofori head into the net via a post. The reaction of Hendon fans was to sing "We're going to win 5-4." They must have been prescient!
Quite what was said in the dressing rooms is best left to the imagination, but the meaning was clear. Two changes were made by Hendon at the break, Duncan and Mark Burgess removed in favour of James Parker and debutant Jimmy Froud, respectively. Froud, an 18-year-old former QPR teammate of Danny Murphy, is a striker who has also seen action with Hayes.
Whatever was said and done at half-time, it did the trick because Hendon were in almost complete control in the second half. The only surprise was that it took 21 minutes for the lead to be reduced to a single goal. A ball out of defence found Frendo in space. He oustripped the last defender and as Russell Ling came off his line, Frendo slipped the ball under him and into the net.
Wealdstone were hanging on desperately and their defence rarely looked likely to stand up to the battering it was taking. In the 81st minute, Ofori was found by Aiteouakrim in acres of space in the inside-left channel. He cut in on goal and drove a shot just inside the near post. Ling's positioning was badly at fault, but the power and accuracy of the shot was such that the goalkeeper hadn't got down when the ball went past him.
Fortune favours the brave and so it proved two minutes later. Not content to play out for the draw, Hendon continued to attack and when Murphy found himself in space on the left wing, 30 yards from goal, he drove a cross to the far post.
Ling was certain that the neither Ofori nor Frendo, would be able to get to it, but he misjudged the flight and suddenly realised that the ball was going much closer to the goal. In fact, Murphy's cross turned into an almost unstoppable drive that entered the goal about two inches inside the far post and a similar distance below the crossbar.
Pickett immediately came on for the tiring Julienne to solidify the midfield, but it was a broken Wealdstone outfit that tried to come back and even six and a half minutes of stoppage time wasn't enough for them to find an equaliser.
"This was a fantastic match for the neutral and for Hendon fans," admitted Mr McCann, "but it certainly wasn't for the management team - of either side. Our defending in the first half was completely unacceptable and that is why we made changes. Belal is going to be a real star on the evidence of this performance."