Hendon were much improved in their New Year's Day encounter against high-flying Chesham United at the The Meadow, but ultimately they came up a little short. As good as the Generals in the first half, the Greens did little in the second 45 minutes - indicative of a team with the confidence of relegation-fighters coming up against a side riding high in the table.
There were two changes to the Hendon starting line-up from the team which had lost so disappointingly to Harrow Borough on Boxing Day. Sergio Manesio swapped with Joe Felix while Andronicos Georgiou made way for the well-again Liam Brooks. In place of Georgiou on the bench was the returning Sam Corcoran.
It was a greeting of old friends to some extent as no less than four of the Chesham starting 11, Kieran Murphy, Bayley Brown, Zak Joseph and Karl Oliyide, had played for Hendon, while a fifth - goalkeeper Ben Goode (brother of Charlie) had been registered without making an appearance.
Joseph, a scorer of 18 Hendon goals two seasons ago, showed off his talent in the ninth minute. Attacking down the left side, he cut inside Joe Howe and drilled a shot which Rihards Matrevics blocked away for a corner.
Four minutes later, another old boy attempted to torment the men in orange. Oliyide made a break into the penalty area and went down under a challenge inside the penalty area.
From 60 yards away, the referee's whistle signalled what seemed to be the inevitable point at the penalty spot. Instead, the official awarded a free-kick to Hendon and cautioned an astonished Oliyide for simulation. He barely contributed after this decision.
The Generals enjoyed the bulk of possession in a fast-paced, open game, with Joseph proving to be particularly threatening, but there was little to choose between the two teams. After 30 and 33 minutes respectively, he was denied by a good block then a low save from Matrevics.
Hendon were not without openings of their own and between Joseph's two attempts, the Dons had the best chance of the half. A Chesham defender misplayed Matrevics' long clearance and suddenly Solomon Sambou had a clear run at goal.
Goode came off his line to narrow the angle and he appeared to put doubt in Sambou's head. His low shot was too close to the goalkeeper, who made the save with his legs.
Then, to complete a spell of four openings in four minutes, Sambou had another opportunity, but this was much more of a half-chance to open the scoring. Once again, Goode came out on top with a relatively comfortable save.
That rush of goal attempts was pretty much the last noteworthy incident of what had been excellent first-half entertainment. Sadly for Hendon, the second half produced a very different story as the Generals took control of the game and scored the goals to take all three points.
Nine minutes into the half, Brad Clayton shot with power from an acute angle. Matrevics made the save but the ball bounced away from him and fell at the feet of Dave PEARCE, who knocked the ball into the net.
Suddenly all the impetus was with Chesham and Hendon struggled to deal with the rampant Generals. Howe, Lucas Perry, Tom Smith and Eddie Oshodi needed the assistance of Tommy Brewer and Manesio in front of them to keep the home side out, while Matrevics made a good save from Pearce.
The four most forward players, Shaun Lucien, Kingsley Eshun, Brooks and Sambou, simply didnâ€™t seen enough the of the ball to threaten the well-marshalled Chesham rearguard.
Both teams made changes, Hendon sending on Felix for Eshun, Corcoran for Manesio and Reece Mitchell for Brewer. By the time of the last change, however, the Dons were 2-0 down.
Brown had intercepted a wayward pass from midfield and sent a pass into space behind Smith and Oshodi. Running onto the ball was the recently-introduced Eoin CASEY - on for Joseph - and he slipped the ball past Matrevics.
It could be said this goal was the intrinsic difference between the two teams. In the first half, Sambou had been denied by Goode when clean through. After the break, Casey, with an almost identical opportunity, made no mistake.
Casey had another chance to score from an acute angle on the left side, but his effort went across the face of goal. Pearce was then thwarted by Matrevics as he tried to make it a double.
It took Hendon 38 minutes of the second half to create a notable opening. The ball was half-cleared to Felix who, on the turn, tried a first-time shot but his attempt went wide of the target.
Another Chesham substitute, the fleet-footed Romario Hart, who had replaced Oliyide after 79 minutes, nearly added to the tiring Hendonâ€™s misery. In the first minute of additional time, he nearly made it 3-0, but Matrevics got down well to make the save.
Later in stoppage time, Hendon were awarded a penalty when Brooks was brought down in a challenge that looked very similar to the one which had earned Oliyide a caution. Having picked himself up, BROOKS took responsibility for the spot-kick and sent Goode the wrong way from 12 yards.
There was time to restart, but little more than that as Chesham kept the ball until the final whistle blew.