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Hendon, the Ryman League pre-season favourites, got the new term off to an awful start as they went down 3-2 at Yeading, last season's Division One champions. Clutching at straws, the only positive was the way the team didn't stop trying to get back into the match, albeit after it should have been long past retrieval.
No less than six of the starting players (and both used substitutes) made their Hendon debut, but that is no excuse for the sluggish first half performance. Yeading were definitely the better team in the opening half-hour on a well-grassed pitch that slowed the game down.
DJ Campbell, twice, and former Hendon favourite Davis Haule missed good chances for Yeading but, although the wide players appeared to have the beating of Hendon defenders every time they challenged them, the forays were sporadic.
After 33 minutes, Richard McDonagh delivered a deep cross that Delroy Preddie in the Yeading goal had to tip over the crossbar as he scampered back. It has to be said that McDonagh's effort was mishit and he would have been outrageously fortunate to have opened the scoring from it.
The first goal came seven minutes before half-time. A long downfield clearance from Preddie bounced past the slow-reacting Danny Butler and CAMPBELL was on the ball in flash. He controlled it with one touch, took it into the penalty area and fired past Dave King.
After 54 minutes, another defensive error, this time from James Burgess, gifted the second Yeading goal. He misplayed a pass on the edge of his penalty area and CAMPBELL needed no second bidding to shoot past the unprotected King from about 15 yards.
Ninety seconds later, James Burgess and Haule had a midfield confrontation. It was not a major flare-up, but nonetheless the sort that a referee would deal with by showing a pair of cautions.
Not Mr W Bull (Hampshire). As Haule had already been booked for a two-footed sliding challenge that caught Wayne Carter in the ribs and caused him to leave the field in favour of Martin Vrhovski moments before the second goal, and Burgess hadn't, the official took no action.
Two minutes later, HAULE finished off a move that saw Campbell carve his way through the left side of the Hendon defence.
Eugene Ofori and Marc Kleboe then got involved in another confrontation and the Hendon player was, maybe, fortunate only to see a yellow card.
Good fortune certainly favoured Preddie in the 78th minute. Mark Nicholls took a short pass from Vrhovski and danced into the penalty area. He went around Preddie and would have had an empty net to shoot into had the goalkeeper not brought him down. The referee baulked at making the right decision, showing only the yellow card. Even the Yeading players were sure their keeper was on his way off because a couple of them were discussing who was about to go between the posts.
NICHOLLS picked himself up and although Preddie guessed correctly, he wasn't close to the confident penalty kick. Mr Bull was then very slow to react as Nicholls and Preddie fought over the ball in the net, the goalkeeper trying to slow things up, while the Hendon skipper realised the urgency of his team's cause.
With seven minutes to go, Usif Bangura replaced the tiring McDonagh and he made an immediate impact. Vrhovski, Ofori and Nicholls were all involved in the build-up and the ball broke to Dave Sargent, who drove a shot that beat the onrushing Preddie.
The ball crashed off the underside of the crossbar and bounced down a yard from the line, right where BANGURA had positioned himself, and his nodded header made the score 3-2.
From being comfortable and strolling to victory Yeading were now in panic mode and their time-wasting was flagrant. Mr Bull, however, took no sanctions against the individual time-wasters, other than to stop his watch, but the tactics worked and Hendon couldn't fashion what would have been an undeserved equaliser.
Hendon boss Tony Choules pulled no punches when he said, "I thought we were very poor today. I am very disappointed with the performance. There were no excuses.
"We will spend the weekend evaluating what we will do about it, but certain players may not be around for long on the evidence of that performance."