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Hendon slipped to another disappointing defeat against Kingstonian at a rainy Kingsmeadow on Tuesday night. The match was decided by goals 90 seconds into the first half and a similar timespan before half-time.
The Greens welcomed back Michael Peacock, Lee O'Leary and Kevin Maclaren, and they took the places of Brad Fraser, Dave Diedhiou and Aaron Morgan, respectively. After conceding 10 goals in their two previous matches, Hendon could be excused for putting out a more defensive formation.
However, it took less than two minutes for the defence to be breached, and it was hardly a surprise either. Kingstonian forced their first corner after 25 seconds, won a free-kick right on the edge of the penalty area when it was cleared, conceded a second corner from the free-kick and, when the third corner was curled in, no-one was marking Paul Vines, who scored with an uncontested header.
The Ks forced two more corners in quick succession and it looked as if Hendon would be facing another rout. It didn't happen and the Greens started to get back into the game.
It took 15 minutes for Hendon to actually cause a problem for the Kingstonian defence, but a clever through ball from Lubomir Guentchev nearly brought Belal Aite-Ouakrim an equaliser. He ran onto the pass, but his shot rolled past the advancing Rob Tolfrey and outside the far post.
The closest Hendon came to goal was after 27 minutes when a drive from Casey Maclaren crashed off the underside of the crossbar. Tolfrey was beaten by the shot and then was extremely grateful that the rebound struck him on the arm and rolled away from the goal.
When your luck is in, a ricochet such as that ends in the net. With Hendon's current run of misfortune, they didn't even get a corner.
On the stroke of half-time, Kingstonian doubled their advantage. A poor clearance from Reading resulted in a Kingstonian throw-in. The throw went to Bobby Traynor, and his cross-cum-shot ended up just inside the far post, Reading not moving because he thought the ball was going wide of the target.
The second half saw Kingstonian play keep-ball quite effectively. Aite-Ouakrim had Hendon's only real chance, but the ball back to him was hit harder than he wanted, leaving him unable to divert on target.
O'Leary limped off after 64 minutes, to be replaced by Brian Haule. At the same time Morgan took over from Guentchev as Hendon went to an altogether more attacking formation, hoping to get back into the game.
Four minutes later, Daniel Sintim was dismissed for a nasty looking foul on Dean Lodge. It was a bad, late and high challenge that merited the red card.
The sending off signalled the death-knell for Hendon's hopes. Kingstonian made two changes in quick succession, Huckle and Dean Lodge, who had caused Hendon fewer problems than he normal did, giving way to Adam Thompson and Sam Clayton, respectively.
Hendon sent on Danny Dyer for Kevin Maclaren. Traynor was then withdrawn by the home side, Allan Tait replacing him. Two minutes later, Kingstonian wrapped up the game with a third goal, Bashiru Alimi being allowed too much time and space and he fired home from the edge of the penalty area.
In the last minute of normal time, Dyer and Tom Bird challenged for a loose ball. Both players were committed to the cause and the Kingstonian player reached the ball a tiny bit ahead of Dyer, who caught him on the foot. It was certainly a foul, and Dyer was yellow-carded.
After that the match petered out. This was a surprisingly lack-lustre performance, one that couldn't be attributed to tiredness, and Hendonâ€™s disappointing showing was one that left manager Gary McCann seething.
"We are lacking the mental strength that other teams are showing," he said. "Our powers of recovery from a setback aren't there and we are feeling sorry for ourselves too easily.
"Tonight we were bullied, outfought and outwitted. I didn't sleep much last night, trying to work out what has gone wrong. I told the players that the performance from a number of them was unacceptable and I will make changes. I will have a long chat with them on Thursday evening when we are at training. We are missing some key players, but I can't use that as an excuse."