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Hendon contrived to continue their unconvincing start to the new campaign, squandering a two-goal advantage to hand Canvey Island all three points, thanks to a combination of wayward passing, inattentiveness in midfield and a degree of bad luck. The home side took all of the spoils in what was an entertaining, end-to-end game that took place in typically breezy conditions at The Frost Financial Stadium.
With seagulls, rather than Ryman League standard issue parakeets, wheeling overhead, the opening period of the match was a scrappy affair, with neither side stamping their authority on proceedings. The stiff breeze, blowing from the steep bank of terracing towards the coast did neither side any favours - the team with the wind at their backs falling prey to a succession of over hit passes and goal kicks.
It was Canvey who started with the wind behind them and it was they who first started taking the game by the scruff of the neck, generating a couple of corners that were dealt with securely be Hendon keeper Joe Wright. The pendulum soon swung to the visitors in terms of possession and attacking menace, with Sam Murphy frequently involved in these incursions. Hendon were soon able to translate this dominance into tangible benefit.
Some neat work from Luke Tingey released Courtney Harris on the right and his inch-perfect cross was driven home easily by Aaron Morgan in the 15th minute. While the finish was routine, the approach play really was excellent and left the Gulls' defence looking very ordinary indeed.
Hendon had a couple of outside chances, including a shot from Oliver Sprague that went well wide, to increase their advantage, before Canvey were back on the front foot. A cross to Martin Touhy saw the striker unleash a volley that was well saved by Wright. A clearance from Canvey keeper Conor Gough found its way to Jay Curran, but his shot on goal trickled tantalisingly just past the post, while another attempt - this time from Tambeson Eyong - was headed over by a Hendon defender.
The next prolonged surge was in the opposite direction, as Hendon sought to double their advantage. The Canvey defence held firm though, although the story could have been different is Murphy had found a truer connection with an attempted shot on goal. Next up in this end-to-end exchange, Glenn Poole saw his shot drift wide of the Hendon goal, before a dangerous looking cross from Ashley Dumas was headed behind by Sprague.
It was then Hendon's turn to take the initiative with a few corners and a free kick in a good position. Hendon's pressure could have resulted in a penalty: Kezie Ibe took a tumble nearby a Canvey defender as he attempted to move onto a neat through ball in the Canvey box. The officials remained unconvinced, justifiably concluding that Ibe's collision with the Essex turf was bordering on the theatrical.
Just a minute later, Hendon succeeded in doubling their lead. A free kick from the left was met by a decent header from Tingey. The ball would have been caught easily by Gough nine times out of ten, but - perhaps slightly unsighted - he instead allowed it straight through him and into the net.
Inevitably, given the end-to-end nature of the first half, Canvey were on the attack immediately from the restart. Some good play down the right found Touhy in the box and he swept the ball home to have the deficit for the Gulls. Ibe soon had a chance to restore the two goal advantage for the visitors. Played through behind the Canvey back line, his shot was well saved by Gough. The ball looped off Gough and towards the empty net, but was eventually cleared much to the relief of the home contingent among the 300-strong crowd.
The last five minutes of the first half saw the home side establish parity. A corner from the right was floated in and Canvey skipper Richard Halle was able to poke the ball home after a bout of pinball in the Hendon six-yard box. The remainder of the half, in which both teams were guilty of giving the ball away far too often, saw Hendon livewire Mahrez Bettache pick up a booking for a lunge on Eyong and Canvey defender Steve Sheehan also seeing yellow for a foul on Sprague.
Canvey, playing into the wind in the second half, went close to taking the lead with a header going just over the bar and a great run and shot from on-loan Braintree player Wilson Carvalho testing Wright in the Hendon goal. Bettache went close for Hendon soon after, a pass from Aaron Morgan enabling him to direct a side-footed shot just past the post. There were more chances for the Greens as they piled on the pressure, a number of shots and corners suggesting that momentum might return in the shape of a goal.
Hendon made their first change of the afternoon, Andre Da Costa coming on for Bettache, but Canvey took the lead almost immediately. Coming almost out of nothing, some midfield noodling found the ball bobbling around in front of Harrison Chatting, the Convey striker with his back to the Hendon goal. A deft turn and exquisite volley saw the ball eluding the dive of Wright and nestling in the side netting.
This superb finish heralded a couple of substitutions for both sides, the Hendon change seeing skipper Lee O'Leary replaced by striker Leon Smith as gaffer Gary McCann sought to introduce some attacking urgency to bring the game back to level terms.
This might well have been achieved in the last ten minutes: a free kick awarded to Hendon for a foul on Da Costa was drifted in from the left. The ball eluded everyone in the box and struck the Canvey post. From there it went straight to the outstretched hand of a Canvey defender. With virtually every single Hendon outfield player and supporter claiming a penalty for handball, the officials were unmoved, either not seeing the transgression or deciding it was unintentional.
In fairness, Canvey had a couple of chances to put the game to bed, but any other day, a draw could have been seen as a fair result. Hendon made a final change as the game drew to a close, with Dave Diedhiou on for Ryan Wharton. Sadly for the visitors though, the only remaining incident of note was a prolonged flare-up between the two teams as Da Costa and a Canvey defender encountered a rather robust difference of opinion.