Hendon ended their preseason schedule with their second-worst performance on Saturday, a 3-3 draw with Eastern Counties League Clacton Town at the Rush Green Bowl. The weather was very hot, although a cooling breeze helped, but the light balls and bumpy surface did no favours for Hendon's passing game which had been so effective against both Walton and Aylesbury earlier in the week. Hendon were too relaxed and, at times, their play was distinctly sloppy.
Another incovenience was the absence - because of illness - of the referee. The senior assistant took over and a local supporter became the third official. The players however did help, showing good discipline and accepting most decisions with good grace.
After 8 minutes, a wayward pass from Iain Duncan was collected by Shane Bailey and he passed to Mark Farmer. The Hendon defence stopped, certain that Farmer was yards offside, but with no flag waving, the referee allowed play to continue and FARMER waltzed around Farai Jackson before sliding the ball into an empty net.
For the final half hour of the half, Hendon effectively laid siege on the Clacton goal, but the equaliser was a long time coming. After 28 minutes, Paul Adolphe curled over a corner, Jon Daly rose high at the back post to nod the ball across goal and Matt BARTHOLOMEW powered in a close range header for the equaliser.
Six minutes later, Bartholomew made a fine save blocking a goalbound effort from team-mate Simon Clarke. After 43 minutes, Hendon took the lead. Neat interplay from Marvyn Watson and Davis Haule set up Adolphe, but he failed to take the chance. Ross PICKETT, however, needed no second bidding and he lifted the ball over Darren Gould into the Clacton net.
The goal excepted, it was not really a happy half for Bartholomew who struggled to cope with the Clacton attack. He was withdrawn at half-time, along with Clarke, who had collected slight knock and was rested as a precaution. Paul Johnson came in for Clarke.
Hendon ran the second half too, but failed to take a hatful of chances. Duncan went off midway through the period to be replaced by Dale Binns. Paul Towler moved across to cover the right side of defence where Warren Kelly was again a calming presence, but the action was mainly at the other end.
Haule came close on two or three occasions, but did not hit the target. Binns came very close two or three times, once cannoning a shot off the post from an acute angle. However, unlike previous preseason friendlies, there was just a feeling that the defence was a little vulnerable and a third goal would be needed to ensure victory.
This was proved true in the 80th minute when Glen HEPBURN rose to head home a corner from Bailey. The Hendon defence was badly at fault, leaving the Clacton centre-forward almost unmarked, and Jackson's attempt to reach the ball was doomed to failure.
With one minute of normal time remaining, things went from bad to worse when the Hendon defence was torn apart by a couple of neat passes. This time it was Ian BENNETT who profited. and he took the ball around Jackson before rolling the ball into the unguarded goal.
There was still time for Hendon to hit back. The Clacton defence was all at sea as the tangerine wave enveloped them. Somehow the ball was cleared to the edge of the penalty area where Haule was waiting. He tried an ambitious overhead kick which surprised Gould. He made a poor effort of covering the ball and it rebounded in front of the goal, a few yards out. PICKETT was quickest to react and he slipped the ball into the net for an equaliser.
Manager Frank Murphy was rather disappointed with the performance, saying, "There were more negatives than positive today. The conditions were not ideal and we could not raise our game to the level we have recently. Next week we will not be able to overplay as much as we did today. The big positive was the understanding Ross Pickett and Davis Haule are developing. They were our best players today."