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Hendon made it back-to-back Ryman League Premier Division victories for the first time in more than three months as they came from behind to heap further misery on relegation-haunted Folkestone Invicta at the Buzzlines Stadium on Saturday.
The Greens' headline heroes were James Reading, who saved a penalty with the team 1-0 down, and Belal Aite-Ouakrim, who scored both goals, but much credit must go to the management team, not only for tipping off Reading, but also for the double substitution which turned the game Hendon's way.
Reading's return in goal was the only change from the team which had seen off AFC Hornchurch on Tuesday, though his twin Dave, James Burgess and Rakatahr Hudson were named to the bench, the last named of whom recently rejoined the club.
As the team arrived at the stadium, what had been light rain turned into a veritable storm. It lasted only 25 minutes, but it was enough to leave the pitch with standing water in a number places which the groundstaff were still forking as Hendon were about to kick-off.
The difficult surface was undoubtedly a mitigating factor, but the first half was a non-event in terms of entertainment and goalmouth action. One notable exception came in the 17th minute when Aite-Ouakrim was forced into a corner by two defenders.
He produced a stunning piece of skill to take the ball past both of them, beat a third man, riding a desperate tackle in the process and tried to find Greg Ngoyi with a low pass from the angle of six-yard box and goal-line, but the ball was hacked away for a corner.
Jamie Busby curled in the corner and Casey Maclaren was able to get his head to the ball, but he was not able to direct it on target.
An example of the difficulty of the surface was best illustrated in the 35th minute when a corner reached Darren Smith, unmarked at the far post. He slipped allowing a Hendon defender to deal with the danger and release Ngoyi. As the ball reached him, he had acres of space in front of him, only for Ngoyi himself to slip and the danger for Folkestone passed.
Towards the end of the half, tempers became a little frayed. A lazy elbow from James Everett on James Parker, a late challenge on Kevin Maclaren and a minor spat between Aite-Ouakrim and Frankie Chappell all needed calming down by the referee, which he did extremely effectively. It should be said the official had an outstanding game, on top of every incident and it was clear that both teams respected the way he managed the game - and he kept his cards in his pocket all afternoon.
The game desperately needed a goal to liven it up and Folkestone achieved it barely two minutes after the resumption. They forced a corner on the left side and, when Smith crossed the ball into the danger area, Chappell escaped the attentions of all Hendon defenders, he had a free header.
His effort crashed off the underside off the crossbar and was immediately hacked clear by a defender. However, the assistant referee raised his flag to signal the ball had crossed the goalline and protests from Hendon players were very limited.
And Folkestone really should have doubled their advantage in the 55th minute. Dave Diedhiou made what seemed to be a copybook sliding tackle on Smith just inside the penalty area. The assistant referee disagreed and immediately flagged to say it was a foul and thus a penalty.
Hendon's players were furious with the decision, but the referee waved aside their protests. Smith lined up the penalty having converted 26 of his previous 27 attempts. His preference has been to go to his left, the goalkeeper's right.
Greens assistant manager Freddie Hyatt managed to get a message to Reading to stand not in the middle of the goal, but a stride towards Smith's preferred side. The move clearly unnerved the Invicta player because he changed his mind. Putting the ball to his right, and not striking the ball cleanly, it allowed Reading to plunge to his left and push the ball firmly away.
Just before the hour mark, Jamie Busby had a great chance to equalise when he had a clear shot from the edge of the penalty area, and with goalkeeper Jack Delo badly out of position. Busby made real hash of the shot, which missed the goal by six yards despite two Hendon players attempting to divert it on target.
Six minutes later, James Dryden had a great chance to make it 2-0 when the ball found its way to him, six yards from the goal. Reading was off his line quickly and made himself as big a target as possible and forced Dryden to drive the ball wildly over the crossbar.
Folkestone seemed to be tiring and Hendon began to create more openings. In the 69th minute Danny Dyer tried his luck with shot from the edge of the box. Delo got his hand to the shot, but it was not a difficult save - and the goalkeeper was relieved to see the ball bounce off the foot of the post and away for a corner.
Within a minute, the Greens made a double substitution, sending on Bradley Ambrose and Lubomir Guentchev for Eddie Munnelly and Diedhiou, respectively. Hendon also went to a more attacking formation with both Scott Cousins and James Parker finding themselves the most advanced player.
Put under more pressure, the Folkestone defence began to show some cracks and both Ngoyi and Aiteâ€“Ouakrim had half-chances to equalise, but were thwarted by desperate interventions. Ambrose and Guentchev both made telling contributions in the final 25 minutes with neat passes and some dangerous runs.
And the extra pressure they exerted on the Folkestone paid off with 15 minutes to go. Aite-Ouakrim and Ngoyi dragged defenders out of position and when Ngoyi pulled the ball back, Aite-Ouakrim got in front of Chappell and guided the ball over the line.
For the final ten minutes, Burgess took over from Dyer, while Josh Burchell replaced Dryden, who had struggled to make an impact.
Hendon's winner came three minutes from the end of normal time. Aite-Ouakrim brought the ball towards the edge of the Folkestone box. He played a neat one-two to get around two defenders who appealed, vainly, for offide and suddenly had only Delo to beat.
The goalkeeper forced him a little wide but was beaten by a little shimmy and despite being slightly off-balance, Aite-Ouakrim slipped the ball into the net.
Throwing caution to the wind Invicta made two attacking substitutions and they nearly were rewarded as the game moved into stoppage time. A left-wing cross eluded two defenders and James Everett had a clear shot at goal. Reading, going to his right, flung out his left hand at the ball and made a fine save to push it away from danger to preserve the points for Hendon.
"The game was only enjoyable in the final 30 minutes," said Hendon manager Gary McCann. "We looked a little bit off our game and in the first half we were very poor.
"Both teams found the pitch very difficult and I think it affected us more than it did them. If we had played like that against one of the top teams, we could have been four or five goals down at the break.
"I expected a much better second half, but we couldn't have made a worse start with the goal and then the penalty and the chance which they fired over the bar. So we could have been 3-0 down, which wouldn't have been a fair reflection of the game.
"We decided to freshen up things with Bradley and Lubo for the final 20 minutes and they made a big difference. Our football in the final 25 minutes was much more like what I wanted to see and we could have scored more goals. But then James made a brilliant save in stoppage time to keep it at 2â€“1."