Hendon produced comfortably their worst performance of the season at Chesham United on Saturday and deservedly left The Meadow on the wrong end of a heavy defeat. The biggest difference between the two teams was that Chesham capitalised better on Hendon's defence failing to clear the ball than the Dons did at the other end. Hendon players did net 3 of the 5 goals, but defender Paul Towler had the embarrassment of beating his own goalkeeper twice.
This was a thoroughly unpleasant match, full of petty squabbles, nasty tackles and bad feeling. Mr G Russell (Berks) made an error in allowing the game to start with Hendon wearing their change colours of light blue and back while Chesham wore light blue and claret.
The first incident of note led to the opening goal. Warren Kelly was attempting to deal with a bouncing ball and he appeared to succeed as he kicked it away. After a moment's delay, following a loud appeal from fans behind the goal, the referee decided Kelly had handled the ball although any contact was not only accidental but also incidental.
Craig Farley struck the free-kick very well, but debutant goalkeeper Paul Newell - on loan from Billericay - will probably feel he should have done better than just parrying the ball away. Undoubtedly, the ball-watching Hendon defence could not have done worse, because Dudley (D.J.) CAMPBELL was able to control the loose ball, look around and slot it into the empty net without encountering a challenge. A minute later, an inch-perfect pass from Campbell sent Mark WATSON clear. He strode through a wide-open Hendon rearguard and drilled the ball under the advancing Newell into the net.
Barely 12 minutes had elapsed and Hendon were already in trouble. But when the ball went to the ever-dangerous Dale Binns, things looked different. The Chesham defence had been briefed by ex-Dons boss Bob Dowie, and they often sent 2 or 3 defenders to subdue him. In the 20th minute, David Adekola set up Marvyn Watson with a fine shooting chance, but the midfielder is suffering from a confidence crisis at the moment and his shot, like much of his work, was very tentative. Delroy Preddie picked up what was little more than a back-pass.
Six minutes later, Hendon nearly reduced the arrears when Binns drilled a low cross beyond Preddie, but Ross Pickett could not quite make contact as he threw himself at the ball. Binns' next run took him through three defenders and he sent a low shot which caused panic in the home defence. Pickett collided with Preddie as the goalkeeper dived out. The ball went out to Watson, whose shot was inadvertantly blocked by Adekola, who stepped into the ball's path.
In the 35th minute another downfield ball found Towler chasing back with Mark Watson breathing down his neck. TOWLER attempted to clear the ball over the goal for a corner, but he underhit it. He looked a aghast as what turned out to be a neat lob dropped into the net.
Manager Frank Murphy made 2 changes at half-time, the out-of-sorts Phil Gridelet being replaced by Gary Fitzgerald in a revamped defence and Davis Haule taking over from Adekola in a straight swap up front. Hendon also changed shirts into Chesham's white away ones, making it much easier for all the spectators, players and officials alike.
The Dons needed an early goal if they were to get back into the game and within 90 seconds they got it. A free-kick caused more consternation in the Chesham defence and a shot was fired through a ruck of players. Preddie may well have been able to make a save but PICKETT got a little touch on the ball. It was enough to divert the ball through Preddie's legs and it squirmed just over the goal-line to make it 3-1.
In the 57th minute, Preddie produced a quite outstanding save to deny Jon Daly a goal after Haule had flicked on a corner from Iain Duncan. That was the best of a number of opportunities that went Hendon's way although none were particularly clear-cut. Fitzgerald and Duncan both put half-chances wide, while Preddie made another reaction save late on.
In the 68th minute, Hendon could have had a penalty when a corner from Simon Clarke seemed destined for Pickett's head until Lee Kersey shoved him, two-handed, in the back. Unfortunately, the referee looked to his assistant before waving aside the penalty appeals.
It proved a turning point, because in the 74th minute, attempting to clear a ball under pressure from Mark Watson, TOWLER diverted a cross from Campbell past Newell for his second own goal of the game.
In the 80th minute, things should have got even worse for Hendon. Campbell burst through the Hendon defence, took the ball around Newell, but could not shoot for goal as the 'keeper pulled him to the ground. Maybe it was Christmas, maybe it was because the game was well beyond Hendon's reach, but Mr Russell showed clemency to Newell and produced a yellow card. Newell showed his gratitude by plunging low to make a fine save from the spot-kick.
A disappointed Mr Murphy said, "We committed football suicide and individual mistakes cost us. It was a gutter today, but it was never a 4-1 game. In the second half we took the game to them. If we had got it to 3-2, we might have done something. Hopefully this was just a little blip, but we must cut out the silly mistakes we made today."