When Ian Wiles scrambled a misdirected headed clearance from Nicky Haydon away from his own goal line in the 70th minute of this match at Scraley Road on Tuesday night, it looked as if Hendon's bright start to the season was about to come to a juddering halt. But Frank Murphy's boys are made of sterner stuff and Jon Daly and Warren Kelly scored late to give Hendon a well deserved point.
Mr Murphy unsurprisingly named exactly the same 14 players who had routed Croydon on Saturday and Hendon again made a bright start. However, Heybridge's defence is a great deal cannier than Croydon's and the Greens' forwards rarely had a sniff at goal.
The opening score was a big shock. Heybridge, on a rare foray forward, forced a corner. Andy Iga came for it, but appeared to drop it as he collided with Simon Parker. The ball bounced down and PARKER reacted quickest to knock the ball into the Hendon goal.
Heybridge were naturally buoyed by this stroke of good fortune, while Hendon's defence suddenly looked rather vulnerable. Paul Towler misplaced a back-pass but Iga redeemed himself by forcing Ross Taylor wide and Gary Fitzgerald did enough to force the shot to be hurried and wayward.
In the 39th minute, Kelly attempted to guide a header back to Iga, but he made poor contact. Kris LEE ran onto the loose ball, danced around the stranded Iga and slid the ball into the net for a second Heybridge. More poor defending almost led to goal No. 3, but the final shot was hurried and wide.
Whatever Murphy and coaches Curtis Warmington and Dave Anderson said in the dressing room at half time must have worked. Hendon came out with a different attitude and Heybridge were immediately under pressure. In the 50th minute, Kingsley Banks fumbled a shot and Davis Haule latched onto the loose ball. He couldn't do anything with it because Banks pulled him down.
Referee Tony Mason waved play on. "I'd have given it," admitted a relieved Banks moments later, realising that he might well have been dismissed if the spot kick had been awarded. At the other end Wiles threw himself to the ground trying to win a penalty.
Afer 56 minutes, Paul Adolphe did well down the right wing and delivered a deep cross which Ross Pickett headed just wide, having leapt high to reach the ball. Twelve minutes later, he was in need of treatment as Wiles delivered a late aerial challenge inside the penalty area.
Heybridge were even luckier to have 11 men on the field when Mr Mason having already cautioned Taylor for a bad foul, developed a nasty itch by his booking pocket as he called over Taylor following another violently mistimed challenge. Manager Liam Cutbush did the sensible thing and immediately substituted the striker.
In the 75th minute, Hendon got the lifeline they craved. A deep cross from Dale Binns eluded all the defenders except Wiles who almost caught the ball. He withdrew his hands and the ball bounced loose. Jon DALY pounced and smacked the ball into the net.
Two or three half-chances fell Hendon's way, but it looked as if the fightback was in vain, despite Heybridge tiring. Then in the 87th minute, a mishit clearance bounced across the penalty area. Daly tried to get in front of Wiles, but he was leant on and was forced to the ground. To the horror of the home defenders, Mr Mason pointed to the penalty spot. Up stepped KELLY and he atoned for his earlier boob with a powerful strike which Banks got a hand to, but could not keep out.
There was still time for Iga to make a brave save at the feet of Lee, but Swifts scarcely deserved even the point they got.
"We battled back well after those defensive errors in the first half," said Mr Murphy.