Covid-19: Supporters are starting to be readmitted to games where possible. However, all clubs have varying procedures to be followed. Please always check ticketing details and other requirements on our news pages and also with the host club before travelling.
Hendon achieved a feat they had failed to do throughout the 2014/5 season when being defeated by early season pacesetters Leiston at Victory Road on Saturday afternoon, by losing two Ryman League Premier Division matches in succession.
The Greens, lining up in an all-new all-red change strip for the first time made one change to the starting eleven that was beaten on Monday evening by East Thurrock with Maz Bettache making way for Kezie Ibe, who made his first start of the season. Bettache was joined amongst the substitutes by Jake Cass, Courtney Harris, Melvin Minter and, for the first time in the league, Hassan Sulaiman.
Both sides were eager to stamp their early authority on proceedings, and it was the visitors that settled marginally the better. Scott Shulton worked himself a good shooting position in the first minute but was unable to trouble Ashlee Jones' goal, curling his effort a couple of yards over the top.
Five minutes had elapsed when Hendon produced the finest footballing move of the entire afternoon. Lee O'Leary, Shulton and Leon Smith were all involved in the flowing one-touch move that ended with O'Leary whipping a low cross from the right flank into Kezie Ibe's path.
The Hendon number 10, still working his way back to full fitness following his pre-season injury, took his effort first time but planted it straight at Jones. Either side of the former Hendon custodian, and the visitors would have been ahead. As it was, Jones was able to save the only Hendon shot on target comfortably.
Slowly but surely, Leiston began to work their way into the game, and create some promising openings, however the final ball was largely lacking and Joe Wright remained untroubled.
The half became increasingly niggly and was largely punctuated by a series of free kicks given by the referee which were then debated at length by players from both sides. It did nothing to help the flow of the game and it was perhaps fitting that when the deadlock was broken in the 25th minute, it was in scrappy fashion.
Not that Leiston, or Gareth Heath in particular will mind that unduly. Leon Ottley-Gooch cut inside from the right flank and found space to shoot at goal. The strike was far from clean, however it was directed well enough to make Joe Wright save at full stretch. Unable to hold the ball, Christy Finch firstly followed up and had his effort blocked before the ball fell for Heath to stab emphatically home.
Hendon tried to get themselves back into the game and enjoyed good spells of possession in the middle third, however there was a lack of guile and cutting edge in the final third that led to attacks petering out disappointingly.
Indeed, four minutes before the break, Joe Francis broke down the left flank and cut the ball back to Finch to meet first time left footed from just inside the Hendon area. The effort lacked nothing for power, but curled a couple of yards wide of Wright's right hand post.
The game was almost sealed as a contest within twenty seconds of the restart. Joe Wright, usually so good with the ball at his feet, made a corned beef hash of a clearance from a back-pass and presented the ball to Finch. Leiston's number 9 really should have punished the Hendon goalkeeper, but almost had too much time to pick his spot and ended up seeing his tame effort blocked by Wright.
Midway through the second half, Hendon's indiscipline bug struck again and denied them the services of arguably their best player of the past fortnight or so in the shape of Sam Murphy. Joe Francis knocked the ball down the right flank and Murphy tracked his run, getting in front of the former Lowestoft man. Francis, unable to get to the ball, wrestled Murphy to the ground unceremoniously, ensuring Murphy won the free-kick. Before the referee could distribute appropriate punishment to Francis, Murphy sprang to his feet and threw Francis to the floor. Francis' booking was followed by the inevitable straight red for Murphy's retaliation.
Leiston, rather than trying to make the extra man count by keeping possession, sat back and left one up front to contain Hendon, who, despite being a man down, continued to press strongly for an equaliser. Diedhiou and Sprague both managed to get good quality crosses into the penalty area, but there were a lack of red shirts able to apply the necessary finishing touch. In addition, the central defensive duo of Joe Jefford and Tom Bullard were absolutely outstanding in their marshalling of Smith and Ibe.
With a quarter of an hour remaining, Gary McCann made a triple substitution. Sulaiman came on for his league debut in place of Diedhiou, Bettache replaced the tiring Ibe and Harris for Shulton. The latter had seconds earlier had frustratingly and needlessly picked up his fourth caution of the season - the third he has been given for dissent.
The coup-de-grace for Leiston, who had created some half-chances on the break, was applied in the 90th minute when a speculative cross from Patrick Brothers sailed over the head of the back-pedalling Wright and lodged itself neatly in the far bottom corner of the net. The goal clinched the three points that kept the Suffolk club at the top of the table having dropped just two points so far from their half-dozen matches - eight ahead of the disappointed Hendon side ahead of their two and a half hour journey back to London.