Hendon were distinctly unlucky not take something out of Thursday night's Ryman Premier Division fixture against Billericay Town at LOOT Stadium. Billericay had enjoyed the benefit of a blank day, while Hendon were trying to win back-to-back games on consecutive nights and, with injuries mounting on a daily basis.
Amazingly, Hendon were limited to just two changes from the side starting 24 hours earlier, RenÃƒÆ’Ã‚Æ’Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â© Street (work) and Davis Haule (injured) making way for Bontcho Guentchev and Phil Gridelet. Richard Dee, David Boateng and manager Frank Murphy were on the bench. Neverthess the squad was stretched to breaking point with the reserves also in action.
Billericay made the perfect start when in the third minute, Justin Gentle crossed to the far post and his brother Dominic GENTLE, Hendon's top scorer last season, rose to head home. The striker's joy was clear to see - another case of the ex-player coming back to haunt a previous club.
Hendon bounced back from the shock of an early goal - maybe it is not so much of a shock nowadays as 4 of the 5 previous matches had seen the Dons score or concede inside the opening 3 minutes - and they were soon exerting pressure on the vistors' goal.
In the 17th minute, the excellent Paul Adolphe made a great break out of midfield. He sprinted clear of the last defender, but Gavin King made himself as big as possible and the goalkeeper blocked Adolphe's shot with his knees. Another blow for Hendon came a couple of minutes later, when Chris Sparks, who had volunteered to play although he had picked up an injury the night before, limped off, to be replaced by Dee.
The closest Hendon came to an equaliser came in the 32nd minute, when Guentchev worked some magic down the left wing. He crossed to beyond the far post where Dale Binns was waiting. His looping volley beat King all ends up, but the ball struck the underside of the crossbar and was hacked away to safety before a Hendon player could react.
At half-time, Hendon lost substitute Dee with a groin strain, so the sub was subbed, Boateng starting the second half. Within 3 minutes, Hendon were a trifle fortunate to keep the full complement on the pitch when Binns appeared to retaliate with his hand to a nasty foul from Russell Penn. Referee Mr M Downey (Mddx) was lenient with Binns and harsh on Penn, showing both yellow cards.
On the other wing, Steve Dickinson, who had replaced Gary Henty after the latter had struggled to deal with the duo of Binns and Marvyn Watson, clashed with Boateng as they went for a loose ball. Nothing exceptionally untoward happened in the that incident, which Mr Downey tried to calm down with a quiet word with the two players, but a minute later, Dickinson cynically kicked the Hendon teenager into touch. No booking was given for this, but Boateng saw yellow for his next foul.
In the 75th minute, Hendon conceded a stunning, if controversial, second goal. Gary Fitzgerald appeared to lose the ball in a challenge, but it seemed as if a Billericay arm propelled it towards substitute Joe Baker. Although he was just 5 yards inside the Hendon half, he shot at goal. BAKER's effort flew over Gary McCann and dipped just under the crossbar.
There was no comeback for the tired Hendon team. Although Billericay didn't really look like adding to their lead, their goal looked even more securely defended. Not even the arrival of manager Murphy in the final 12 minutes could bring about a comeback.