Hendon's biggest home defeat, 5-0, for almost a decade against Aldershot Town on Friday night was hardly surprising given the team's desperate injury crisis. Although Aldershot had played as much as Hendon in recent days, their squad pretty much had avoided injury and they were able to name a nearly full-strength team.
For Hendon, sadly, this was not the case. All 7 specialist central defenders were out injured, although Curtis Warmington valiantly, if foolishly, volunteered to go on the bench. He suffered a major knee injury in October, had surgery in January, was some way short of match fitness, and admitted that he had little feeling in the joint. There were 3 teenagers in the starting line-up.
The 14 players on duty formed one squad, while another 14-man line-up was sidelined, and the latter may well be favoured to win a "fantasy" match-up. The absent 14 would comprise: goalkeeper Richard Wilmot; wing-backs Iain Duncan and Paul Johnson; central defenders Warren Kelly, Paul Towler, Gary Fitzgerald, RenÃƒÂ© Street, Chris Sparks and Richard Dee; midfielders Phil Gridelet and Jon Daly; and strikers Ross Pickett, Davis Haule and Nathan Edwards.
The Greens really had very little shape to their team and with the threat of up to 3 games to be played in the following 24 hours, probably preying on their minds, it was no surprise that an eager Aldershot team ran all over them. The first half was very scrappy and rather niggly, although nothing like as bad as the reverse fixture - when three players were sent off.
The opening goal arrived after 26 minutes when Stafford BROWNE jumped in front of Gary McCann and headed a free-kick past the goalkeeper, who had come off his line to claim the ball. Hendon's best opportunities were half-chances at best and Aldershot goalkeeper Stuart Searle enjoyed as easy an evening as he will ever have had.
In the last minute of the first half, Hendon lost wing-back Simon Clarke with a calf injury, leaving him 3 games short of completing the season with 300 carerr first-team appearances. He was replaced by 19-year-old David Boateng. It meant that the 11 players who started the second half contained only Paul Adolphe from the 11 who started on the opening day of the season - and goalkeeper Andy Iga is the only one no longer with Hendon.
In the opening minute of the period, Hendon had a very good penalty appeal turned down when Lee Protheroe punched the ball away from David Adekola under pressure from the striker. The two players had tussled with each other going for the ball, but referee Mr Nick Kinseley (Essex) ruled the Hendon man guiltier and awarded Aldershot a free-kick.
Six minutes later, a mazy run from Lee HOLSGROVE took him past a number of Hendon defenders and he shot low past McCann for Aldershot's second goal. McCann was beaten after 58 minutes, too, when Lee PROTHEROE drilled a free-kick past the Hendon wall and into the net.
With the game over as a contest, manager Frank Murphy brought himself on for Bontcho Guentchev, but Hendon were struggling to keep Aldershot at bay more than looking to score themselves.
In the 80th minute, Jason CHEWINS made it 4-0 from close range. With a minute left in normal time, Warmington replaced the tiring Dave Stewart, but Hendon's discomfort was not over. In stoppage time, Gary ABBOTT scored Aldershot's 5th goal.
"One more day to go," said Mr Murphy after the game, "then the season will be over. I can't wait."