Hendon's 2nd game in 26 days ended in a 2-0 defeat against title favourites Farnborough Town at the Aimita Stadium on Saturday afternoon. But Farnborough officials admitted that Town's 14th consecutive Ryman League Premier Division victory had been one of the hardest to achieve.
Jon Daly and Otis Roberts were unavailable because of work commitments and Davis Haule had not quite recovered from a calf strain, but on the positive front, Iain Duncan made his first appearance, as a substitute, since 15 February.
His replacement, Marvyn Watson, made a fine goal-line clearance after 10 minutes to deny Barry Laker a goal from a corner. It was in the air where Farnborough enjoyed most of their domination in the afternoon, although Ian Baird got practically nothing out Chris Sparks, who had another very solid game at the heart of the Hendon defence.
The home team were totally on top in the opening half-hour, but almost all of their chances came from dead ball situations. In the 20th minute, ex-Hendon striker Gary Crawshaw turned an apparently on-target effort from Michael Warner away from the goal.
Gary McCann produced a number of top-class saves to keep the scoreline blank as Hendon were forced to defend for long periods. However, once Watson and Simon Clarke began to find some space down the flanks, the home defence began to show a surprisingly jittery side, given that they have conceded only 20 goals in 33 games.
In the 34th minute, a cross from Paul Adolphe fell for Ross Pickett, whose powerful drive was blocked by Warner, who was left writhing in agony, having been struck in the solar plexus. Both teams were inconvenienced by a very difficult pitch and the flanks, in particular, were awkward. One pass from Phil Gridelet to Watson rolled for 10 metres, before hitting a divot and reaching the Hendon man at shoulder height.
In the 41st minute, David Adekola put Hendon's first effort on target. It didn't have great power and Stuart MacKenzie made a sprawling save by his near post. It looked a flashier save than necessary as did an alert grab, 2 minutes later, when a cross from the by-line may well have found an unmarked Pickett.
Hendon would have ended the first half satisfied with a containing job pretty well done. The wind would be at their backs in the second half and its strength of advertised by McCann's first clearance of the half. It was caught by MacKenzie 10 yards from his goal - wide of the target - high above his head.
The Dons' best chance came in the 56th minute, when a low cross by Clarke was met by Jason Soloman. His first time shot took a big deflection and looked likely to fall perfectly for Pickett with MacKenzie out of position. Unfortunately, the ball floated towards him, rather than travelling at speed and Pickett was off balance when the ball arrived and his header went wide.
On the hour mark Dale Binns was introduced in place of Adekola, who really needs a much harder pitch to show his talents. Binns had only made one run when Hendon found themselves a goal behind.
In the 64th minute, Simon Clarke appeared to be pushed in the back as he knocked a ball out of play. Farnborough wasted that good position with a cross that flew all the way out for a throw-in on the opposite flank. A needlessly conceded free-kick from this seemingly safe situation proved fatal as the ball into the Hendon penalty area was not cleared and when it fell to Lenny PIPER his mishit shot bobbled across McCann and crept inside the keeper's right upright.
The goal lifted Farnborough noticeably and Hendon were barely able to clear their own lines for about 10 minutes. The introduction of substitutes Tony Taggart and new signing Paul Fewings gave Farnborough fresh legs and impetus.
However, once again it appeared that Hendon may have weathered the storm when they conceded a second goal in the 78th minute. It came from a corner and it was Barry LAKER who powered a header home.
After 80 minutes, Duncan and RenÃ¯Â¿Â½ Street came on for the tiring Gridelet and Gary Fitzgerald, but Farnborough were now in the comfort zone. It may have been different if Binns, having been too strong for Chris Piper, had fired past MacKenzie. The keeper made a good low save and that signalled the end of Hendon's hopes.
"We need to get a bit of consistency going," said manager Frank Murphy. "I think it was a sloppy first goal. You're looking for a break when its 0-0 against the league leaders, but we didn't get it."