Hendon's first-half performances in a large number of games this season have been very poor, but only Chesham had really punished them. That was until Saturday afternoon, at the Camrose, when Basingstoke Town scored 5 goals to destroy Hendon.
Not only were 10 first-team players missing (McCann, Duncan, Clarke,Johnson, Kelly, Towler, Fitzgerald, Roberts, Pickett, Haule), eitherinjured, ill or unavailable, but also a number of those on duty werepressed into action carrying injuries or exhaustion at levels that would only improve with rest. Chris Sparks was effectively an 11th absentee, failing a fitness test, but he was named as a sub.
In the 3rd minute, a deep cross from Mark Lisk was met by a powerful header from Sean GORMAN, who was completely unmarked. Richard Wilmot had no chance with the header, but his angry looks at his central defenders suggested the blame was apportioned at their doors.
Six minutes later, Basingstoke's standard corner tactic against Hendon paid dividends, Tim SILLS profiting with another powerful header at the far post with marking notable for its complete absence. As the game passed the 10-minute mark, there had been more goals than free-kicks. Much of the credit for this must go to referee Mr G Russell (Berks), who had an excellent game, playing the advantage law whenever possible and letting the teams get on with playing football.
Hendon tried to rally and twice came close to reducing the arrears. First, in the 11th minute, Paul Adolphe made a dangerous run and his pass to David Adekola gave the Nigerian the chance to shoot. His effort whistled just wide of Scott Tarr's right post with the goalkeeper well beaten.
Five minutes later, Marvyn Watson embarked a brilliant, mazy 40-yard dribble, which took him past four Basingstoke players. He passed to Jason Soloman, hoping for a quick return pass. Instead the former Watford midfielder shot wastefully wide.
In the 28th minute, Dale Binns, Hendon's 4th starting left wing-back of the week cut inside from the left wing and tried his luck with a low shot. Tarr probably had it covered, but the ball skidded into the side netting. That was pretty much the sum of Hendon's attacking endeavours as the first half degenerated from disappointment to abject misery.
First, in the 38th minute, Gary Fitzgerald could not clear the ball, SILLS dispossessed him and deftly lifted the ball over Wilmot, who had come off his line to deal with the danger.
RenÃƒÂ© Street was the next to be caught out, but GORMAN's 22-yard flashing volley was still a thing of beauty that beat Wilmot all ends up. Every Basingstoke attack now looked likely to bring a goal, and the Camrose Blues still had one raid left in their locker before the break.
Again Hendon failed to deal with the danger and GORMAN latched onto theball, sliding it past Wilmot to complete his hat-trick. He and Sills must love playing against Hendon. This season Gorman netted 5 goals and Sills 3.
Hendon manager Frank Murphy must have blistered the dressing-room paintwork with his half-time team-talk. He radically changed the team's formation with Bontcho Guentchev removed in favour of Richard Dee, who moved to right wing-back, Watson and Phil Gridelet moved into midfield roles, while Jon Daly played just in front of a back-four. It had the desired effect because Hendon drew the second half 0-0.
Basingstoke, however, took their collective feet off the pedal. Wilmot did not have a great deal to do as Hendon at least salvaged a littlerespectability. In the first half, Basingstoke put 7 efforts on target and scored 5; in the second half, they mustered just one on-target attempt and Wilmot was equal to it. The crossing also lacked its first-half sharpness and the 'keeper dealt with it under less pressure.
In attack for Hendon, Adekola worked hard, but he had four different striking partners in the half: Binns, Adolphe, Gridelet and Binns'replacement David Boateng, though the last 3 were little more than attacking midfielders. Tarr was certainly underemployed, but much of the credit for that should go to Paul Wilkinson, who was superb as the last defender.
Mr Murphy chose his words carefully without pulling any punches after the game, saying, "We never turned up in the first half. We returned to the dressing room shell-shocked. It's not that you cannot defend, it is if you are not prepared to defend. And that goes for the whole team, starting with the forwards and working back to the defence. Everybody was at fault."