Hendon's 9th game in 18 days proved one too many as Basingstoke Town recorded a 3-2 Ryman League Premier Division victory at LOOT Stadium on Monday night. The team now has 5 days, barely enough time to lick their wounds before taking on the Division's top 2 teams in 3 days at the weekend.
Two of Saturday's substitutes had different roles: Ross Pickett started in place of Paul Adolphe and Paul Johnson was omitted in favour of Phil Gridelet. The changes probably gave Hendon a better balance.
Hendon started brightly and the Greens had a good chance after 8 minutes. Dale Binns beat the Basingstoke offside trap and ran in on goal. From the other wing, he would have been favourite to score, irrespective of the angle. This time his shot was well saved by Scott Tarr.
Within 5 minutes, Hendon found themselves behind. There didn't seem much problem as a long downfield ball bounced towards the Hendon penalty area. It should have been an easy ball for Gary McCann to claim as Gary Fitzgerald shepherded it back to him. However, a combination of the wind, a soft spot on the pitch and a lack of communication conspired to allow Rob Cook to reach the ball first. He knocked it into the danger area and Sean GORMAN had the simplest of tap-ins.
Binns forced Tarr to make a smart save by his near post from a driven cross, which Pickett would probably have converted. Davis Haule then came close to turning in a similar chance but, under pressure from Paul Wilkinson, his shot went the wrong side of the near post.
In the 38th minute, Basingstoke extended their lead. A needlessly conceded free-kick on the edge of the Hendon penalty area was floated in by Dominic Naylor and Tim SILLS rose high to head home unchallenged. This very simple move has been used by Basingstoke for a number of years, but Hendon have yet to find a way to deal with it.
The half-time score of 2-0 didn't reflect how the game had gone. Hendon needed to score first to have a chance of getting anything out of the match, and they got their lifeline in the 63rd minute. A long throw from RenÃ¯Â¿Â½ Street was flicked on by Pickett and BINNS swept home the loose ball from close range.
There was plenty of time for Hendon to get an equaliser, but the next goal, in the 69th minute, came at the other end. Once again it was a rapid counter-attack from Basingstoke following a rather fortuitous bounce in their penalty area that led to it.
An unfussy clearance from Jason Bristow was helped on to a Basingstoke player streaking down the right wing. Hendon appealed for offside, but the assistant referee said a Hendon defender on their left played him on. The ball was crossed in and Street's attempt to block the cross to Gorman did no more than bring down his man. Referee Martin Ebbage (Bucks) had no hesitation about pointing to the penalty spot and he showed leniency to the already booked Street, by not booking him. GORMAN fired home the penalty to seal the game.
In the last minute of normal time, PICKETT forced the ball past Tarr from close range after a shot from Binns was slowed by a defender. Any chance Hendon had of getting an equaliser was well snuffed out by Basingstoke who did their defending on the edge of Hendon's box.
Tarr admitted fortune had played a part in his team's victory, saying, "We got the luck of the bounce tonight, and there were some pretty ropy ones out there."
Hendon coach Dave Anderson was less complimentary. "If you make schoolboy errors in a schoolboy game, you will probably lose," he said. "If you make schoolboy errors at this level, you will definitely lose, and we made schoolboy errors tonight."