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Hendon produced a superb fightback to snatch a Ryman League Premier Division draw against Bury Town at Vale Farm on Tuesday night. And, but for a truly magnificent stoppage time save by Marcus Garnham, the Greens would have taken all three points, this after trailing 3-1 with less than ten minutes of normal time remaining.
There were a number of changes to the team which had started at Chelmsford on Saturday. James Reading replaced Berkley Laurencin in goal, Michael Peacock replaced Craig Vargas, whilst Daniel Wishart and Brian Haule came in for Casey Maclaren and Aaron Morgan.
The match followed a very similar pattern to the FA Cup tie, with Hendon two goals down after 30 minutes, reducing the arrears around the 40-minute mark, then trailing 3-1 with less than 12 minutes to go. However, there were two big differences, Bury spent almost the whole of the second half on the back-foot, barely creating a chance, and they failed to hang on for victory.
In the 10th minute, in a scramble in the Hendon penalty area, the referee spotted Kevin Maclaren moving the ball with his arm. As he was lying on the ground and the ball was behind him, he could neither see nor know where it was and he knocked the ball with his arm as he tried to regain his feet.
The award of a penalty was desperately harsh punishment for what was not only a complete accident, but he didn't even gain any advantage because Peacock was about to clear the danger though Sam was lurking and immediately appealed for the handball. Chris Henderson took the spot kick and Reading guessed correctly, the ball went low beyond his left-sided dive.
Buoyed by the goal, Bury enjoyed far the better of the exchanges and Hendon barely had a look in going forward. The exertions of Saturday clearly had an effect and a sluggish reaction was not only unsurprising but also entirely forgivable.
That said, the second Bury goal, just before the half-hour mark, was the result of an unusually sloppy piece of defending by Scott Cousins. He let a cross from the left wing fly past his left ear and Lee Reed was all alone, close to the penalty spot. He controlled the ball on his chest and smacked the ball past Reading for an easy goal.
Bury skipper Tom Bullard scored both of the next two goals, both with unchallenged headers without a Hendon player within half a dozen yards of him. The first goal reduced the arrears for the Greens. Sam Nunn slipped on the edge of his own penalty area and the ball was picked up by Brian Haule who passed out to the left wing, from where Cousins crossed the ball into the danger zone.
Bullard rose and headed the ball past Garnham, then looked around to see which Hendon player he had beaten to Cousins' cross. There was no one in sight.
But, having been given a lifeline by the Bury defence, the Hendon rearguard quickly returned the favour. It started with Reading failing to gather a free-kick and spilled the ball out for a corner. The set piece was half-cleared, but when Lee Reed crossed the ball back into the penalty area, Bullard was again completely unmarked and he atoned for his earlier error to make it 3-1.
The domination enjoyed by Bury was partly explained by the strength of the wind, an advantage which Hendon enjoyed in the second half. The Greens enjoyed a surfeit of possession, but the Bury defence looked very solid and there were few clear-cut openings.
Less than 60 seconds into the period from a cross by Cousins a flick on by a Hendon player was pushed out of the penalty area by the outstretched arm of a defender. There was no intent to handle the ball, but it was a more obvious offence than the one for which Kevin Maclaren had been penalised early in the second half.
To defend the referee, his angle was such that he may have been unsighted, but neither of his assistants were able spotted the incident. The frustration of the players on the pitch and the management team in the dugout area was clear to see.
Ten minutes into the second half, Lubo Guentchev and Kevin Maclaren were replaced by Mariusz Serwin and Casey Maclaren respectively. After another ten minutes, Neil Andrews took over from Scott Chaplin for Bury.
Hendon continued to push forward, but they were denied any clear sights of goal, at least from inside the penalty area. Efforts did come from outside the box, but both Lee O'Leary and Jamie Busby were unable to put their attempts on target and it began to look like this was going to be another home defeat.
The Greens had a second penalty appeal turned down midway through the half. A clumsy challenge on Busby didn't make contact with the ball and the Hendon midfielder was brought down, but the referee waved play on.
Danny Dyer came on for Peacock with just over a 15 minutes to go, the last throw of the Hendon dice. He immediately provided some much needed penetration down the right side, especially as Jonathan Coke's forward runs were largely stifled because of the excellence of Bury's left-sided attackers.
From his second run into the penalty area, Dyer squared the ball towards Serwin, but a crunching block tackle by Nunn ensured the ball wasn't directed goalwards. In the 80th minute, Hendon over-committed men forward and Bury had a three-on-one break, but Reading made an excellent block to deny Sam Reed.
Such was Bury's fear of conceding a goal that they delayed every set-piece as long as they could. Eventually the referee ran out of patience and Ashley Sloots was yellow-carded after taking an age to deliver a free-kick from the half-way line.
In the 82nd minute, Wishart crossed from the left edge of the penalty area. The ball was perfectly weighted for Parker, who flicked a header neatly just inside the far post with Garnham guarding his near upright.
Trying to slow the game down, both Lee Reed and Mark Coulson were withdrawn by Bury and Roscoe Hipperson and Craig Nurse, respectively, took their places. The visitors' defence was now being asked a number of serious questions and not all of the answers appeared to be correct.
Dyer might have had some success with a first-time volley from another left-wing cross, but he elected to take a touch and Sloots deflected the ball out for a corner.
Then, with barely two minutes of normal time remaining, Hendon forced another corner. Scott Cousins' delivery was not perfect, but the ball was headed out only to the edge of the penalty area. Waiting was Busby, and his first-time volley flew into the net like a tracer shell and almost lifted it off the stanchion. Garnham never moved.
Having fought back to equalise, Hendon almost let it slip, but Bury wasted a great chance to win the game. But there was still time for one more twist.
Two minutes into the four of added time, Hendon attacked down the middle. Haule set up Dyer for a shot on the angle probably 10 yards wide of the goal. The shot was on target, but Sloots a yard inside inside his goal area, tried to hack the ball clear.
He succeeded only in slicing the ball at great pace towards the near post. Garnham, already committed to go to his right, somehow not only changed direction, but was able to push the ball away from the target. Busby's goal was undoubtedly a candidate for goal of the season; Garnham's intervention would grace a save of the decade contest.
"It was always going to be difficult to get up for this game after Saturday, but it was good that we were playing a team as good as Bury," admitted manager Gary McCann.
"I thought we showed fantastic heart and commitment in coming back. It would have been easy to have said, 'It's not to be tonight' at half-time but we didn't. And when I looked behind me and saw my three strikers all injured it makes this result even better."