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Hendon finally secured the remaining points they required to guarantee a finish outside the bottom four of the Ryman League Premier Division by defeating Burgess Hill Town 1-0 on Wednesday night. It was the Greens' first away clean sheet in the League since a 3-0 rout of Needham Market almost eight months earlier.
It was a strange evening in that both teams were of the opinion that the bottom three are doomed and Farnborough will be demoted irrespective of their final position but, until all is said and done at the various League AGMs, 20th place or better had to be the target.
The Greens, in their change midnight blue kit, were able to name the same 11 starters who had earned the point against Billericay two days earlier. On the bench, however, Nyv Bogaire, Sam Murphy and Luke Tingey came in at the expense of Addison Garnett, Tony Taggart and Scott Cousins.
There was almost a spectacular start to the game as, after eight seconds, Finbarr Robins won the ball in midfield, rolled the ball towards Kezie Ibe, who laid it back into the path of Keagan Cole. From Cole's first-time strike, Hillians goalkeeper Josh James was relieved to see the ball roll inches wide of his far post.
A couple of minutes later, Oliver Sprague attacked down the left flank, cut in and delivered a low, teasing cross. As Hendon players moved in towards the ball, James was out smartly to gather it.
Burgess Hill started to get into the game and their produced some very good approach play, but the final ball lacked the quality to unlock the Hendon defence, well-marshalled by Casey Maclaren and Sam Flegg. After 14 minutes, the Greens suffered a blow when Robins had to go off and Murphy replaced him.
The Hillians' best effort of the first half arrived around the 20-minute mark when Curtis Grayler found himself in space as he ran towards the Hendon penalty area. He tried his luck from 25 yards and although his dipping swerving effort inconvenienced Joe Wright, the goalkeeper was able to knock down the ball and gather it before a striker could latch onto a rebound.
Chris Smith and Luc Doherty then linked up well down the Burgess Hill right. Doherty got around the back the back of the defence and his low cross was deflected by Dave Diedhiou, which did enough to ensure that Dan Pearse could not guide the ball on target from six yards out.
After Murphy had fired over the Hillians' crossbar, the hosts nearly took the lead. Their 41-year-old player-assistant manager Stuart Tuck rose imperiously to head a corner goalwards. Both Wright and Maz Bettache moved across the goalline to deal with the header, but Pat Harding intervened first, and his touch took the ball over the crossbar.
Hendon improved in the second half and it took a superb diving save from James to rescue Tuck from great embarrassment. His misplaced clearance - under no pressure - fell to Carl McCluskey and he fired a powerful shot which needed a top-class save to keep the game scoreless.
The Greens defence was on top and the only efforts mustered by Burgess Hill either bounced tamely towards Wright or flew well wide or high of the target. There was a growing feeling that one goal would settle the game - and not conceding was almost more important than getting that key strike.
Nonetheless, in the final 15 minutes, Hendon made their final substitutions, first Brandon Adams taking over from Ibe, then Ben Pattie replacing Cole. Their energy level and physicality, respectively, asked different questions of the increasingly jittery Burgess Hill rearguard. Those questions got an 83rd minute answer, but for those in green, it was definitely not what was wanted.
A loose clearance rolled just past Chris Seeby, who turned, controlled the ball, looked up and found himself in acres of space. He ran forward, but instead of shooting or crossing, he played a short pass out to his right, where Bettache quickly attracted a crowd of three defenders.
The game's best attacker proved himself too good for all three Hillians and, like Doherty from almost exactly the same spot in the penalty area in the first half, Bettache rolled the ball towards the middle of the six-yard box.
McCluskey went for the ball, but Joe Keehan, who had been tracking the run of the Hendon midfielder, beat him to it. His misplaced clearance beat James at his near post for an own goal. As Hendon players celebrated with Bettache, stunned Burgess Hill players sank to their haunches in abject misery.
In the final seven minutes, and three more of additional time, the Hillians tried hard to find an equaliser, but apart from a couple of wayward crosses and an outrageously hopeful long-range effort, the disciplined Hendon defence repelled everything thrown at it.