Hendon continued their entertaining ways and showed grit too in overcoming the concession of an early goal to beat a tough Slough Town team 2-1 at LOOT Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The victory lifted Hendon into 6th place in the Ryman League Premier Division table, the best since the club finished 5th in 1997-98 and, after 4 weekends of the season, the Greens are still the League's top goalscorers with 16.
Phil Gridelet missed his first game of the season due to a family illness, but Warren Kelly recovered from the flu bug which had kept him out of the team at St Albans. Ross Pickett and Paul Adolphe were restored to the starting line-up at the expense of substitutes Marvyn Watson and Bontcho Guentchev.
Slough made a great start. They won a free kick, 30 yards from goal towards the right touchline. The ball was lofted towards the far post, but Hendon failed to clear the danger. When the ball fell to Mark HALL, he wasted no time in lashing high into the top corner of the net.
Boosted by the early goal, Slough took control of the match and they should have extended the lead after 8 minutes when former Hendon striker Junior Haynes was given a free header just beyond the far post after good work from left winger Chris Allen. Hendon breathed a sigh of relief as Haynes' header flew into the side-netting.
Allen was causing Iain Duncan a whole heap of trouble with his control and direct running, but Adolphe, sacrificing his attacking instincts tracked back often enough to snuff out much of the danger. Defensively, Allen showed less appetite for hard work and when Duncan and Adolphe combined, Junior Harvey had his hands full coping with the duo.
Adolphe should have equalised after 28 minutes. Running onto a through ball, he was too quick for Keith McPherson. However, his touch was too hard and Steve Mautone, who appeared to injure his knee taking a goal kick, was quickly off his line to smother the ball.
In the 40th minute, Hendon did draw level. Slough had a free kick in a similar position to where they had opened the scoring. This time the ball was higher and Richard Wilmot did well to outjump Mark Hawthorne to make the catch.
He took a quick drop kick which was headed on by Davis Haule. The ball ran to Adolphe who was again clear on goal. This time his touch was fine, but he was denied a goal by Mautone's brilliant palm away. The ball fell to Dale BINNS, 18 yards out, and he struck a sweet shot high into the roof of the net.
One of the moments of the season came 4 minutes into the second half. Haule was faced by Harvey, but dribbled around him. Three more defenders attempted to rob him but all were left beaten. Mautone came out to narrow the angle, but he didn't have to make a save as Haule scuffed the shot wide. "Best bit of skill I've seen at this level," Mautone said to fans behind the goal.
Hendon were now well on top and it looked to only be a matter of time before the Greens took the lead. After an hour, Slough withdrew the experienced Steve Stott and Hawthorne in a bid to stiffen the midfield, but Steve Browne's gamble backfired badly.
After 65 minutes, a deep cross by Duncan was about to be met by Pickett, but Harvey cannoned into him. Everybody stopped expecting a penalty, but referee Mr Gary Young (Dunstable) froze, almost as if the moment was too big for him. No thanks to the referee, Hendon still got the advantage.
The ball should have been cleared but bobbled off a defender into Haule's path. Mautone came of his line and spread himself, but HAULE fiddled the ball over him and it rolled into the net.
Watson replaced Binns, who had worked very hard, and his skill on the ball added to Slough's discomfort. He danced past Harvey just inside the Slough half, but was brought crashing to ground by a grotesque challenge, his second bad one in about 10 minutes, following a diving lunge. Haule - the earlier victim - immediately sprang to his teammate's defence, but calmer heads prevailed.
Mr Young took Haule and Harvey to one side and showed them yellow cards. It meant the end of the Harvey's day because it was his second caution. The referee did get this decision absolutely right, just as he had with the earlier cautions for Harvey and Duncan (a first half challenge that may have won the ball, but had been both reckless and dangerous).
There was still time for Watson to almost extend Hendon's lead, but Mautone made a great save.
"This was our best performance of the season," said manager Frank Murphy. "We did it for the full 90 minutes, not just 45 or 60. I stressed to the players at half-time that they had to do it for the whole game and they responded brilliantly. Full credit to the players."