Hendon broke their Ryman League Premier Division duck at the third attempt with a thoroughly deserved 2-1 defeat of newly-promoted Boreham Wood at the LOOT Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
A baking hot afternoon meant that the normal million miles per hour pace of the game was reduced to a more sedate one and credit must go to both sides, and referee John Pearce (Essex) for common sense being shown on both sides. Mr Pearce permitted play to stop for a couple of minutes in each half to allow players to take in water.
Gary Fitzgerald and Simon Clarke both recovered from knocks picked up in the opening two games to take their places in the starting line-up. For the transfer-listed former skipper it was game No. 149, for Clarke it was 300, the first Hendon player since Dave Root (1986-94) to reach the landmark.
Paul Yates came in for Ricci Crace as Ross Pickett joined Davis Haule up front. Michael Woolner was unavailable so the substitutes were Crace, Paul Johnson and debutant Lee O'Donnell. For Wood, the loss of broken leg victim AndrÃƒÂ© Delisser was a huge blow, while David McDonald made way for former Hendon and St. Albans player Andy Polston.
The opening 20 minutes was less than inspiring fare, with both teams feeling out the other in the search for a weakness. In the 25th minute, a Clarke corner eluded Taylor, but RenÃƒÂ© Street was unable to make contact with the ball at the far post. Pickett then had a half-chance, but he scuffed his shot and allowed Chris Taylor to make a comfortable save. At the other end, Jon-Barrie Bates hacked away a shot from Phil Mason by a post.
The best move of the game to date brought Hendon the opening goal in the 33rd minute. Bates' astute pass released Haule down the right. He was joined by Marvyn Watson, who ran onto Haule's slide-rul pass, cut into the penalty area and delivered a measured, low cross towards Pickett from level with the 6-yard box.
Before Pickett could reach the ball, Lee HARVEY intervened and his touch knocked it past Taylor for an own goal. While it was unfortunate for Harvey, if he had not got a touch, Pickett would almost certainly have taken the chance.
Buoyed by the goal, Hendon finished the half stronger, but chances remained at a premium. Boreham Wood made a substitution at half-time, taking off Polston in favour of the more attack-minded Dominic Grime. The move back-fired badly on Wood, who found themselves 2-0 down within 33 seconds of the restart.
Haule found himself in space on the left side of midfield and his pass allowed Dale Binns to run unchallenged at goal. Taylor came off his line, but did not commit himself. BINNS chose to go for the near post and his drive was just too powerful for the goalkeeper, who could not even get a hand on the ball as it flew into the net.
Within 5 minutes of Simon Clarke heading a John Lawford effort from off the Hendon line, the Greens should have extended their lead. In the 69th minute, Binns and Haule combined to set up Pickett for a clean volley at goal from 10 yards. Taylor produced a brilliant save, but the ball was not perfectly struck and it came at a comfortable height for the keeper to make a save.
Within a minute, Boreham Wood had reduced the arrears. The ball was swept out to the right wing where Grime found himself in acres of space. Johnson, on for Fitzgerald - Clarke had moved into the middle of defence - came across to make a challenge but Grime crossed before he could get there. Another substitute, McDONALD rose highest and he headed the ball past Hook.
It set up a nervy final 20 minutes for Hendon fans, but Wood, having spent 25 minutes of the second half chasing the game, didn't have much left to offer. A header from Jeran Meah went just over the crossbar, but the defence, well marshalled by Paul Towler, held firm.
In fact, the better chances fell to Hendon. Substitutes Crace and O'Donnell both just missed the target with shots, while Pickett unselfishly tried to set up Binns, when a shot might have been the better option. The final whistle brought cheers of relief as much as joy from Hendon fans, who were praised by manager Dave Anderson.
He said, "The supporters were really good today. If they support the youngsters like that, it can only bring them on."
After looking a worried man on Tuesday night, Mr Anderson was more relaxed on Saturday, adding, "It's funny what a couple of days can do. I thought we deserved to win today. Gary Fitzgerald was outstanding."