Hendon seem to have this preseason more under control than in the last few years. Their 1-0 defeat of Berkhamsted at Broadwater on Saturday afternoon was a great deal more comfortable than the scoreline suggests.
Berkhamsted may be in Division Two of the Ryman League, but they boast over half a dozen players with Premier Division experience, including former Hendon players, manager Steve Bateman and John Richardson, while a third member of Chesham's 1993 Isthmian League title-winning squad was Darren Coleman, who played in the Greens' youth team a decade ago.
A new striking partnership started this match for Hendon: Ross Pickett (formerly with Yeading and Walton & Hersham) and David Adekola (Bishops Stortford, Billericay, Slough, Walton) and they both looked useful. Bontcho Guentchev in midfield oozed class and had the best effort of the opening half, a 35-yard dipping volley which left home goalkeeper Sean O'Connor praying the ball would not dip under the crossbar to embarrass him.
The afternoon was very warm and it meant that the game was not played at breakneck speed. Berkahmsted were on the defensive for most of the game and their players spent most of the afternoon in vain pursuit of the more accomplished Hendon team, for whom Ian Duncan at right wing-back and Paul Towler and Warren Kelly in the middle of defence looked particularly impressive.
The Dons missed a whole hatful of chances, Jason Donlan, Adekola, Pickett and Gary Fitzgerald all being guilty of wasting gilt-edged opportunitites. The last-named wasted the best chance, arriving late at the far post but guiding a free header wide of the post. With Towler, Kelly and Alan McCarthy starting the game at the heart of defence, Fitzgerald had a midfield role, but his distribution was not as good as it could have been, forcing Marvyn Watson to be more defensive than suits his game.
As is usual in these games, the line-ups in the second half bore little resemblence to the first and at various stages Hendon introduced Jon Daly, Matt Bartholomew, Paul Adolphe, Simon Clarke, Dale Binns and Paul Johnson, with Adekola returning to replace Pickett near the end.
The only goal arrived after 56 minutes and it was two of the substitutes who set it up. Binns did well to beat a couple of defenders and he passed to Davis Haule. Haule stepped inside another tackler before setting up Pickett, who rifled a shot into the net, the ball just glancing off the underside of the crossbar as it flew past O'Connor.
Goalkeeper Farai Jackson had an almost untroubled afternoon, making one good save to block Richardson and gathering a couple of shots which were little more powerful than back-passes. Duncan and Donlan/Johnson did a fine job in limiting Berkhamsted's attacks down the wing and Jackson coped well with the few crosses that did need dealing with.
The second half saw Hendon as dominant as they had been before the break, but a mixture of poor finishing and a couple of excellent saves from the overworked O'Connor kept the result in doubt right up to the final whistle.
Manager Frank Murphy was satisfied with the performance, but he admitted, "We could have won by six. I like to bury teams like that. The team is looking very sharp. They have worked brilliantly during the summer."