Hendon, exhausted by playing their 8th game in 17 days, still recorded a 3rd Ryman League Premier Divison victory in 4 outings, with this 2-1 defeat of Maidenhead United at York Road on Saturday. The Dons returned to 13th place in the table, just 3 points behind 10th placed St Albans with 6 games in hand.
The bitterly cold, blustery wind meant it was only the die-hard or hardy who were in attendance and they saw a much-changed Hendon team struggle in the first half, although chances at either end were at a premium. Jon Daly, Warren Kelly, Dale Binns and Davis Haule were restored in favour of the three substitutes David Adekola, Ross Pickett and Paul Johnson, while Phil Gridelet was suspended.
Manager Frank Murphy has made it club policy for the ball to be passed around, but all to often the approach play was far too intricate and by the time it reached the penalty area, there were more than enough defenders around to deal with the danger. Mr Murphy also asked his wing-backs Marvyn Watson and Simon Clarke to deliver more crosses.
Maidenhead, with the slope in their favour in the first half, took the lead after 24 minutes. A number of attempts to clear a corner failed and when Clarke's header went only 10 yards, the ball was hooked back into the danger area. Lee Channell collected the ball and as he advanced towards goal, he was bundled over. CHANNELL picked himself up and converted the penalty, sending McCann the wrong way.
Hendon tried to get back into the game quickly, but Maidenhead were tigerish in the tackle and chances were few and far between, limiting Hendon to efforts from outside the penalty area. Richard Barnard looked very solid in goal for the Magpies and these efforts didn't really trouble him.
At half-time, the ineffective Paul Adolphe was replaced by Ross Pickett, but the change had little bearing on the equaliser which arrived less than 2 minutes into the half. It was a long cross from Simon Clarke which created the problem. Tom Hickey was in two minds whether to head the ball clear or chest it down before striking it. He lowered his shoulder and the ball bounced off it.
Referee Mr A Osborne had no hesitation about pointing to the spot for the second time in the afternoon. Jason Soloman picked the ball up as if he was the penalty-taker, but skipper Warren Kelly pulled rank and volunteered to take it, backing himself, even after having his last effort saved. Barnard dived one way, the ball went the other and KELLY had scored his 4th goal of the season.
The goal knocked Maidenhead back and Hendon began to look more dangerous. Dale Binns started giving Paul Woodhouse something of a run-around, while Marvyn Watson did much better getting down the other wing to stretch the Magpies' defence.
On the hour mark, it paid off for Hendon. Clarke intercepted a clearance from Steve Croxford, ran towards the penalty area and passed to Jason Soloman, who shaped to shoot, but instead passed to Haule. He spotted Watson in space, but the pass was not the best. It forced him wide, so he crossed instead of shot. It was a real teaser which drew Barnard off his line, but he was a long way from the ball and BINNS timed his run perfectly to place a neat header just inside the far post.
Rene Street and Gary Fitzgerald made a couple of timely interventions as Maidenhead tried to find an equaliser. However, the Magpies found Gary McCann in even less charitable mood. He made four saves, denying Channell three times in the last 20 minutes, but none of them duly extended him. Most hearteningly for Hendon, McCann's kicking looked more authoritative than at any time since he returned from injury.
On the counter-attack, Binns' pace was too much for Woodhouse, who damaged a muscle in one chase for the ball, and Haule took the worst of 5 options when shooting from 25 yards. He had Watson, Binns and Pickett unmarked and available for passes and another 10 yards in which to run, but in the end it didn't matter.
"The boys came out and scrapped well today," said a delighted Mr Murphy. "I think we were excellent in the second half. We responded well to the chat we had on Thursday night. Full time pros don't have to play the amount of fixtures we have had - 8 games in 16 days is crazy and you can't expect the boys to be at their best in all these games."