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Hendon slipped to a second consecutive Ryman League Premier Division defeat when they went down 3-2 at Concord Rangers on Saturday afternoon. Although the Greens fought back from 2-0 down, they conceded a winner midway through the second half.
Following the defeat against Harrow Borough on New Years Day, there were a number of changes to the Hendon starting line-up, with Eddie Munnelly, Lubomir Guentchev and Belal Aite-Ouakrim all returning, at the expense of Jonathan Coke, Danny Dyer and Brian Haule, all of whom were named on the substitutes bench.
Upon arrival at Thames Road, the match referee decided that he wanted to make a formal inspection of the very soggy surface - there was some standing water near the touchlines - and eventually decided the game could go ahead, much to the relief of the two teams who were raring to go.
Unfortunately for Hendon and Craig Vargas in particular, the decision back-fired. Less than three minutes into the game, as he dived in to block a shot from James Elmes, Vargas had his leg crushed by team-mate Michael Peacock, also attempting to block the shot. After a couple of minutes of treatment, Vargas was stretchered off the pitch and Coke replaced him, causing the Greens to make a major defensive reshuffle.
Concord nearly took full advantage of Hendonâ€™s problems and both Tony Stokes and Gary Ogilvie should have done better with great openings presented to them. The latter fired over the crossbar from 16 yards, while James Reading made a splendid double save from Ogilvie.
When Hendon finally got going, they won a free-kick just outside the penalty area. The delivery from Scott Cousins, however, was poor and the ball went out for a goal kick with no grey-shirted Dons player even close to it.
The opening goal arrived after 31 minutes and there was a hint of good fortune about it. A corner from Cousins was hacked clear and seemed certain to go out of play on the far touchline, some 30 yards from the Concord goal.
However, the heavy surface allowed the ball to slow enough for the chasing Danny Glozier to reach it. He fed the ball down the middle to Harry Elmes and when he passed to Ogilvie, a defender brought him down.
It wasn't a bad foul, or a clear goalscoring opportunity, so the referee didn't show a card, but the penalty award was obvious. Tony Stokes took the kick and drilled it straight down the middle, past the feet of the diving Reading.
Less than a minute later, more poor Hendon defending resulted in a second goal for the Beachboys. A cross from the right wing eluded everyone, except for Ogilvie, who had lost his marker beyond the far post. His first-time volley was expertly directed across the diving Reading and inside the far post.
In truth, the two-goal lead was no more than Concord deserved and Hendon fans were fearful of a hammering. It didn't happen and, in the final dozen minutes of the half, the Greens nearly drew level.
They pull back one goal, very fortunately, after 37 minutes. A beautiful through ball from Guentchev invited Aite-Ouakrim, making his first appearance since the end of October, to run onto it. Aite-Ouakrim took the ball around Dale Brightly and from an absurdly acute angle shot at goal.
Glozier made a clearance before the whole of the ball had completely crossed the goal-line, or so he and almost everyone else close to the incident thought. The dissenting opinion was that of the assistant referee, who immediately signalled that the ball had crossed the line and awarded a goal.
On the stroke of half-time, Guentchev struck a magnificent 25-yard drive which beat Brightly all ends up. The ball, however, struck the inside of the post and rebounded out towards the onrushing Aaron Morgan. The striker, however, had taken half a step too many and his attempt to divert the rebound goalwards - the target was vacant - was in vain and the ball rolled inches wide of the still-shaking post.
It did not take long in the second half for the Hendon to restore parity. After a spell of concerted pressure, Concord were grateful just to clear the ball anywhere. That really should have been anywhere - other than to the feet of Aite-Ouakrim.
In the 51st minute, a clearance went to Aite-Ouakrim, who brought the ball under control, took it past a defender to make space and then drilled a shot past Brightly. It took his total to six goals in two games against Concord, and a disgruntled Brightly joked to fans, "that man has ruined my season."
Hendon couldn't go on from there to take the victory. Although they pressed for the next five or so minutes, it was Concord who began to exert control. A bad foul from James Burgess earned him a yellow card, as did one from Morgan for him and the game became a little more heated.
There was only one more goal, a towering 66th-minute header from an unmarked Steve King from a Glozier cross. The Hendon defending was again non-existent and Reading was blameless as the ball went across him into the net.
Within two minutes of going behind again, Lee O'Leary came close to another Hendon equaliser with a powerful header from a Cousins corner. He did well to lose his marker, but he got his angles wrong and planted the header just wide of the exposed post. Jamie Busby later fired a shot just over the crossbar from just outside the penalty area, but they were rare openings as the Beachboys were more in tune.
Glenn Garner replaced the tiring Aite-Ouakrim but really couldn't make his mark on the game, while Haule came on for the limping Peacock with 10 minutes remaining. He did have one good chance to score when a cross from Coke went through a sea of legs. The ball bounced off Haule's shins and was gratefully gathered by Brightly, before the Hendon striker to get to it.
"We were very much architects of our own misfortune," said a disappointed Hendon manager Gary McCann. "We cannot defend at the moment and the goals were are conceding are down to us rather than the other team.
"Losing Craig Vargas was a huge blow. It looks like a very serious injury. But we should have a few other players back in the next week or so."