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Hendon's losing run continued as they were outplayed by Ryman League Premier Division leaders and championship favourites Sutton United at Gander Green Lane on Saturday. Although two of the Us' three goals were the result of good fortune, there is no doubt that they were more than good value for their victory.
Hendon made three changes to the team which had started at Staines Town, Daniel Sintim, Lubomir Guentchev and Brian Haule (the latter both named as substitutes) being replaced by Michael Peacock, Danny Dyer and Greg Ngoyi, respectively. For their part, Sutton - without their regular right back - named Andy Forbes in the position, a player who, as a central striker at Eastleigh, scored four in a game against the Greens in 2005.
All the positive plans were thrown out of the window inside of five minutes as a defensive lapse by Michael Peacock allowed Richard Jolly the chance to get a run at goal. He fired the ball across the penalty area, where Dave Diedhiou failed to deal with it. Leroy Griffiths pounced instantly and, despite the best effort of James Parker on the goalline, opened the scoring.
Hendon should have drawn level five minutes later when Aite-Ouakrim worked an opening. His shot was deflected by the outstretched leg of Sam Page and fell towards Aaron Morgan, left unmarked by Forbes.
If Morgan had put his shot on target he would surely have scored. The shot hit the post and the rebound bounced kindly for the Sutton defence.
Forbes showed better instincts in the Hendon penalty area. From a corner, he timed his run perfectly and had a free header which would have brought a second Sutton goal but for a spectacular goalline clearance by Jamie Busby.
Over the next few minutes Casey Maclaren and Tom Davis started a feud. It started with a heavy, but fair challenge by the Hendon player, one which upset the Sutton man. His response was a late challenge, which many referees would have considered a cautionable offence.
They collided again in the centre circle, barely a minute later, and this time there was no malicious intent from either player, both going for a ball bouncing high on the rock-hard surface. The clash of heads left both players requiring treatment.
Another free-kick on the edge of the Hendon penalty area resulted in Nick Morgan making a good save from Darren Ebsworth. The goalkeeper had earlier been nearly embarrassed by a shot striking a divot around the penalty spot and changing direction, but he was able to stretch his giant frame around to make the save.
The next time Maclaren and Davis clashed, it was much uglier. The Hendon player committed a foul, just clipping the heel of Davis, but it was genuine attempt to win a tackle and was not too bad.
Davis, however, rolled over and in trying to get back to his feet, appeared to grab Maclaren's leg. Maclaren, attempting to extricate himself, caught Davis on the head with his boot.
This incensed Davis's teammates and a melee ensued, after which Maclaren was shown a yellow card. By the way the referee pointed at various places on the pitch, he ruled the kick on Davis's head accidental and issued the sanction for persistent misconduct.
In the 34th minute, just as it looked as if Hendon had pretty much weathered the first-half storm, they conceded a second goal. A ball into the penalty area was cleared by the Greens defence towards the centre circle.
It was returned towards to Hendon box by Karim El-Salahi and struck the ankle of Craig Dundas. The deflected ball picked out the unmarked Jolly, who had been lurking away from the action. Given half a chance to run at goal, without a defender close to him, Jolly raced towards Nick Morgan and shot the ball just inside the far post.
Two minutes later, Aaron Morgan, trying to bring the ball out of his own penalty area, miscontrolled the ball and, in attempting to regain possession, made an ugly two-footed lunge at it, making contact only with the leg of Davis. Fortunately for the Greens, the referee ruled that the challenge merited only a yellow card when many in the ground were expecting a red.
On the stroke of half-time, as a Hendon free-kick was cleared by the Sutton defence, Maclaren was sent tumbling by a Sutton player. The ball, however, was 40 yards closer to the Hendon goal, where Danny Dyer was trying to deal with the predatory Jolly.
As Dyer looked around to see exactly where Jolly was, the striker ran into his elbow. The assistant referee, directly in line with the incident, saw nothing untoward, although Jolly went down holding his face. The players again got involved and the referee, who had not seen either of the two incidents, cautioned Parker and El-Salahi for their parts in accelerating the incident.
Before the start of the second half Kevin Maclaren and James Burgess came on for Aite-Ouakrim and Peacock, respectively. Although Scott Cousins retained the captain's armband, leadership on the pitch very clearly passed to Burgess.
Hendon also changed their playing style, trying to stretch the Sutton defence. But they could not get a foothold in midfield and it was Sutton who looked altogether more threatening on a regular basis. However, the mixture of a couple of good saves from Morgan and some poor finishing meant it took almost 20 minutes for the Us to extend their advantage.
The Greens, again, could be rightly aggrieved about the build-up to Dundas's goal, but they did also have some culpability. It started just inside the Sutton half as Casey Maclaren appeared to be fouled - a typical slightly mistimed challenge in midfield - but the referee ruled Maclaren as the offender.
Hendon's defence moved forward as if going on the attack, but didn't pay attention to the way the referee pointed or the run of Dundas. Forbes's slide-rule pass was taken in stride by Dundas, who shot low into the bottom corner. Maclaren's protests were, unsurprisingly, in vain.
Almost immediately Sutton sent on Bradley Woods-Garness for Davis, ensuring there would be no more problems with him and Casey Maclaren. Kevin Maclaren, however, picked up a yellow card, as did Page for a deliberate handball that was just far enough away from the Sutton penalty area not to be considered denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity.
Both teams made their final substitutions in the last 15 minutes. Ambrose replaced the limping Dyer, while Tom Kavanagh and Alan Bray took over from Jolly and Ebsworth, Forbes reverting to his more favoured striking role.
In stoppage time, the referee showed two more yellow cards. Aaron Morgan was the first, a lunge at Sutton goalkeeper Kevin Scriven, who was shadowing the ball out of play for a goal kick. It was a needless challenge, given the circumstances of the match, especially given his first-half booking, so he took the slow, lonely trudge to the dressing room.
The last action of note was a careless challenge by Forbes, who became the third Sutton player to be cautioned.
"What was a blip a couple of weeks ago has become a major crisis," said Hendon manager Gary McCann. "We are so lacking in confidence at the moment and as soon as something goes against us, we can't react.
"We need something to get us going, even it is only going into half-time drawing 0-0. Conceding the early goal today really knocked us back."