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Hendonâ€™s long opening-day trip to the Kent coast proved to be a fruitless one as a rebuilt Margate team deservedly ran out 2-0 winners at Hartsdown Park. On a baking hot day, the weather was more conducive to sun-bathing and splashing in the sea, rather than football and the fare was hardly that to set the pulse racing.
The idea of a day by the seaside certainly seemed to be a good one for thousands of road users because the journey down to the Kent coast was so slow that all three teams arrived later than they would have liked and the kick-off was put back to 3.15. This was a very bad omen for Hendon as the Greens have not won a match with a delayed kick-off for more than two seasons.
The delays actually affected Margate more than Hendon because their biggest off-season acquisition, the prolific Carl Rook was named on the team-sheet but had to be content with a place on the bench, as was another key contributor for the Gate, Matt Bodkin.
Hendon gave first-team debuts to five players, Mo Maan, Wayne Walters, Michael Murray, Dean Cracknell and Bradley Wadkins, and had to reshuffle their defence with Jameses Parker and Fisher, both more experienced at centre-half than at full-back, with Ryan Wharton and Walters in the middle.
The difference between the two sides was Margate's central midfielder Richard Avery. He was excellent throughout the 90 minutes and almost opened the scoring in the sixth minute with a 30-yard drive. He was crestfallen to watch the ball bounced outside the penalty area after crashing off the crossbar with Maan well beaten.
Tommy Murphy, starting in place of Rook, was just wide of the target in the ninth minute, when he brought down the ball and fired from an acute angle.
Margate had a loud penalty appeal when a corner bounced off a couple of players and struck the hand of a green-shirted defender. It must be said that his hand was very close to his body and the ball struck the hand from almost behind him. Although it would have been a harsh decision, the referee would not necessarily have been wrong to have pointed at the spot.
Six minutes later, Alex Rhodes was also denied a goal by the Hendon crossbar. Again the effort came from distance as the Greens struggled to repel the incessant Margate attacks.
However, once Hendon had weathered this initial storm, they were more than a match for the Gate. A run from Jerome Federico was halted by an ugly challenge from Laurence Ball, who was cautioned.
And it was Federico who had Hendon's best chance of the first half. He made a break, supported by Wadkins, in a two-on-two situation. Ball forced Federico a little wider than he would have liked, but Federico got the better of him.
Running in at goal, a pass to Wadkins might have been a better option, but Federico was denied only by the legs of Craig Holloway as the goalkeeper came off his line.
At the start of the second half, Murray and Cracknell began to take control of the midfield and ask a few more questions of the home defence. But the blue wall was able to deny Wadkins any space to create havoc.
Murray did come close with a free-kick, curled into the penalty area after 52 minutes. Only a desperate intervention from a blue-shirted defender stopped a goal-scoring chance, and even that defensive effort nearly resulted in the ball being headed inside the near post.
Rook was brought on for Rhodes after 65 minutes and, two minutes later, Margate took the lead. It was a poor goal defensively for Hendon as Dave Diedhiou was dispossessed on the edge of the Margate penalty area and one long ball forward resulted in three-on-three raid the other way.
Although Walters was able to force Tommy Whitnell wide, the ball was passed back to Avery, who shot at goal. Whether Maan would have been able to make a save was rendered moot as Parker's attempted block sent the ball into the opposite corner â€“ Rook shepherding the ball over the line.
Hendon's response was to send on Jack Mazzone and Isaiah Rankin for Wadkins and the hard-working Kevin Maclaren, who had done a sterling holding job in midfield. The reshuffle, necessary as the Greens chased the game, did leave holes at the back and only a couple of superb interventions from Walters and Wharton denied Margate further joy.
That was until the 79th minute. A deep right-wing cross eluded Wharton and Rook sent a looping header over Maan and the ball dropped just inside the angle of post and crossbar.
Howard Hall became the sixth Hendon debutant when he replaced Murray for the six minutes of normal time, but the Greens didn't get that little bit of luck they needed in the penalty area. A ball from Rankin clipped a defender's foot and rolled just too far in front of Mazzone for him to get his toe to it and Holloway saved at the forward's feet.