Hendon almost literally tossed three points away with a disappointing performance against Gravesend & Northfleet at LOOT Stadium on Monday night.
After taking a 1-0 lead through David Adekola, the striker was sent off and Hendon slumped to a 2-1 defeat that was deserved if only because they displayed a better attitude than their hosts.
The first half was almost totally unmemorable. Che Stadhart had a shot well saved by Andy Iga after 21 minutes and Davis Haule slipped when in an excellent position. Apart from that, an outstanding tackle - perfectly timed at full speed - from Warren Kelly dispossessed the dangerous Nick Hegley who appeared to have clear run at goal. Unfortunately for the Fleet, Hegley collected an injury and was substituted before half-time.
Five minutes after half-time Hendon took the lead. Iain Duncan did very well down the right flank and drilled a low cross which Jamie Turner could not reach under pressure from Haule. ADEKOLA arrived at the far post and slid the ball into the net without fuss.
After 52 minutes, he was desperately unlucky not to extend the lead. Turner dropped a corner from Duncan and Adekola pounced, lashing the ball goalwards. Unfortunately, Jon Daly could not get out of the way and the ball smacked off his face and went away to safety.
Three minutes later, Adekola, cautioned for dissent before half-time, mistimed a challenge on Scott Lindsey and referee Steve Chittenden (Herts) had no hesitation in sending off the Nigerian. It turned the game entirely in Gravesend's favour.
The inevitable equaliser arrived after 72 minutes. Iga threw the ball out to Paul Towler. His clearance was picked up by Lee Spiller, who found Steve Restarick in acres of space. With time to pick his spot, RESTARICK steadied himself and fired into the net.
Four minutes later, Gravesend scored their winner. From a corner the ball was won at the far post and headed back across the face of goal where Robert OWEN was waiting to head home. Iga was then cautioned for dissent.
Gravesend were almost immediately denied a third goal when the assistant referee deemed that a player obstructing Iga's view was in an active offside position. It seemed a harsh decision as the ball fairly rocketed into the net. By now, however, it seemed almost a matter of how many Gravesend would score in the waning minutes.
"We pushed the self-destruct button tonight," moaned manager Frank Murphy. "I spoke the players in the dressing room after the game and got my point over."