Hendon's dismal record against Purfleet - 2 draws and 7 defeats in the last 9 Ryman League meetings - continued with a 2-1 loss at LOOT Stadium on Saturday afternoon. At least as disappointing as the lacklustre performance was the fact that until the Dons conceded a 44th-minute equaliser, they had barely been troubled.
With Hendon's frontline squad injury list standing at 4 - Jason Soloman (head), Paul Towler (knee), Iain Duncan (calf) and Bontcho Guentchev (hamstring) - and back-ups Richard Dee, Pat Sappleton and Nathan Edwards also unavailable, team selection was quite easy, though the return of Jon Daly was a bonus.
Not a lot happened in the first half and the first attack of note, in the 22nd minute saw the opening goal too. Marvyn Watson and Paul Adolphe linked well down the right wing and the former delivered a teasing cross into the heart of the Purfleet penalty area.
Gary Howard was at full stretch to head the ball clear and did not get great distance on it. Dale BINNS fastened onto the loose ball and volleyed it low into the bottom corner from 22 yards. Steve Mead may have been a little unsighted, but his dive was never close to reaching the ball as it arrowed just inside his left post.
For the next 15 minutes, Hendon were comfortably in control, but Purfleet then began to get back into the match. Their style is uncompromising, uncomplicated and, especially against Hendon it seems, effective. Watson and Adolphe on one flank and Binns and Simon Clarke on the other became isolated as the midfielders were needed to support Daly, so the shape was lost. This in turn added to the pressure on Rene Street, Gary Fitzgerald and Warren Kelly at the back. Up front David Adekola and Davis Haule were starved of possession and quickly became ineffective.
In the 44th minute, Hendon, having already failed to deal with a couple of corners and clear the ball with authority, paid the penalty. Watson rather needlessly conceded a corner with a defensive header, the ball was not cleared properly and Howard helped it back into the penalty area, although there was a hint of handball as he controlled it. Jamie SOUTHON somehow got around the back of the defence and slid the ball past Gary McCann as he rushed off his line.
Purfleet were well on top for all of the second half and it took a fine save from McCann, in the 53rd minute, to keep out an effort from Kieran Adams after the former Barnet player had sprung the offside trap with a quick passing move involving Martin Carthy and the ever-dangerous George Georgiou. It only delayed the inevitable 6 minutes, although there was again a hint of fortune about the goal. Steve Pashley attempted to cross from the right wing, but the ball was deflected. It looked as if it was going out for a goal-kick but Keith Martin did well to reach it near the goal-line, just outside the 6-yard box.
Somehow he was able to knock the ball back across goal and McCann, suddenly realising it was not going to go harmlessly wide but in fact drop just under the crossbar, back-pedalled furiously and - at full stretch attempted to palm the ball over the bar. He was able only to get a touch and the ball fell into the path of GEORGIOU, who wasted no time in scoring.
Whether McCann was to blame or not is not the big issue. The most important question was why were two Purfleet players left unchallenged in dangerous positions in the same attack. Five minutes later, a fast flowing move ended with the ball in Hendon's net again, but this time an assistant referee's flag for offside chalked off the score.
Hendon's only chance of note came in the 75th minute when Mead came for a cross by Adolphe but could not catch the ball over a crowd of players, including Haule and Adekola. Haule was fastest to react, but he did not set himself before shooting and his effort was blasted high over the bar.
"We were very poor today," admitted manager Frank Murphy, who kept the players in the dressing room for a time after the final whistle.