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Hendon were distinctly unlucky to come away from the St Georges Stadium, Grosvenor Vale, Ruislip, with no points from their Ryman League Premier Division encounter with Wealdstone on Saturday afternoon. Outplayed comprehensively in the first half, the Dons hit hit back well in the second, but could not find an equaliser to the own goal they gifted the Stones ten minutes before the interval.
Casey Maclaren failed a fitness test before the game, so brother Kevin replaced him in the starting line-up, and fit-again Belal Aite-Ouakrim took over from Glenn Garner. On the bench for the first time was December signing John Fletcher, the former Kingstonian central defender who has been playing and studying in the United States.
Wealdstone hadn't scored in five matches and they started the match determined to end that run as soon as possible. In the second minute, Berkley Laurencin made an excellent save to deny Keiran Knight, one of the Stones' two on-loan strikers - Sutton man Richard Jolly being the other.
Jolly, who enjoyed a successful spell at Wealdstone a few years ago should have opened the scoring in the third minute, but he, again, was denied by Laurencin. From the resulting throw-in, Peter Dean blasted over the bar from the edge of the box.
It took more than 15 minutes for Hendon to even break into the Wealdstone penalty area, and they should have scored from the chance. Lubo Guentchev started the move, which Aite-Ouakrim continued. Kevin Maclaren joined the attack and received a pass from Aite-Ouakrim.
It really needed a first-time shot or, at worst, a touch, followed by a left-foot strike, but Maclaren elected to put the ball on his right foot and this allowed Wes Parker to make a sliding block. At the other end, another good Wealdstone chance went begging as Laurencin was quickly off his line to pluck the ball off the feet of Knight.
Wealdstone were quicker to the ball and with it than Hendon and the Greens were forced to use illegal methods to slow down the Stones. The referee had issued stern lectures to a number of players before Guentchev was shown the first yellow card of the afternoon in the 31st minute.
Four minutes later, Wealdstone took the lead. A clearance out of the Wealdstone defence went to the half-way line where Lee O'Leary called for and jumped for the ball, and seemed to be barged into by Kurtney Brookes.
The referee, however, ruled that O'Leary was the offender and Wealdstone, as they had done all game, took a quick free-kick. The ball was played into the feet of Jolly, who was unable to turn Peacock because the defender tripped him - and was very fortunate not to be shown a yellow card for the foul.
Lee Chappell took the free kick and it was certainly looking dangerous for the Hendon defence. However, Daniel Sintim, in attempting to head the ball away from the danger zone, succeeded only in finding the roof of his own net. If a striker had planted a header with such precision, he would have received deserved plaudits for his accuracy.
Before play could resume, Knight, who had suffered a blow to the thigh earlier in the half, limped off and Greg Ngoyi - a former Hendon youth-teamer - came on to replace him.
Two minutes later, Maclaren was fouled on the half-way line by Brookes. The referee may well have brandished another yellow card for the offence, but someone said something and suddenly Brookes shoved O'Leary. The upshot was that both 'â€™Leary, undeservedly, and Brookes - fortunately, because it may well have been a red - were shown yellow cards.
Simtin then completed a thoroughly miserable 10 minutes by becoming the third Hendon player to see yellow. His offence was utterly needless, trying to stop a quick Wealdstone free-kick some 15 yards outside their penalty area.
Just before half-time, Aite-Ouakrim set up Aaron Morgan, but the striker, struggling for confidence since his injury against Chelmsford at the start of November, failed to take the opportunity. Jonathan North then got his fingertips to a rasping drive from Jamie Busby.
With the slope in their favour and the wind at their backs, Wealdstone would have been confident of adding to their advantage in the second half, but that wasn't the case. In fact, it was Hendon, who replaced Peacock and Maclaren with Fletcher and Danny Dyer, who dominated.
Dyer fulfilled a dual role: right-sided attacker and stifler of the raiding Chappell. Without Chappell's prompting from the left-back position, the Wealdstone midfield had to drop back and they allowed Busby and O'Leary to take on more attacking positions.
Instead of being on the back foot, Hendon did most of the attacking and only an off-day for the front men meant they finished without a goal. In the 47th minute, a drive from Busby was deflected a foot wide of the left upright with North already diving towards the right post.
From the corner, O'Leary lost his marker and had a free header from six yards. He got just a little too much power on the ball and it caromed off the top of the crossbar before bouncing onto the roof of the net.
Four minutes later, Morgan intercepted a clearance from Parker and immediately passed to Aite-Ouakrim, who went past Alan Massey. He had a clear sight of goal, but spotted Dyer in a better position, but his pass was over-struck by a fraction. This caused Dyer to take a touch to control the ball and it allowed North the chance to sprint off his line to narrow the angle, forcing Dyer to shoot hurriedly into the side-netting before the goalkeeper flattened him.
As the second half progressed, the chances came and went. A ball from Dyer went across the face of goal a couple of yards from the line and three Wealdstone defenders did well not to touch it, but no Hendon forward was far enough advanced to divert the ball into the net.
A similar cross from Guentchev, from the opposite wing, caused similar consternation but, again, no grey-shirted forward could get the decisive touch on the ball. After 65 minutes, cross from Guentchev was deflected away from North and Aite-Ouakrim guided a header towards to the goal, only to see Chappell fly across to head the ball from off the goalline. The assistant referee was perfectly position to rule that the ball had not completely crossed the line, much to the frustration of the players and the Hendon fans behind the goal.
With around 20 minutes remaining, Glenn Garner replaced Aite-Ouakrim, while Wealdstone brought on Callum Martin for Danny Spendlove. While it was Hendon who continued to set the pace, Wealdstone were not without their own chances, but Fletcher and Sintim struck up an immediate alliance which kept Ngoyi and Jolly - both of whom had enjoyed multi-goalscoring games against the Greens - quiet.
Hendon forced a number of corners and free-kicks around the Wealdstone penalty area, but the deliveries were, on the whole, very disappointing and the home defence rarely was troubled by any of them.
The feeling grew among the Hendon faithful that this was not going to be their day and that was confirmed in the 88th minute. Great work from Dyer, assisted by Munnelly, carved open the Wealdstone defence.
Dyer crossed to the unmarked Garner, who had a free header from no more than six yards. Instead of powering the header, Garner went for placement and he glanced the ball a yard or so wide of the gaping target.
"It was a game of two halves," admitted Hendon manager Gary McCann. "We lacked a competitive edge in the first half and we were indebted to our goalkeeper for keeping us in the game.
"We failed to take the chances presented in the second half so it was a mixture of frustration and disappointment"