Hendon opened their preseason friendly schedule with a 3-0 defeat against one of the favourites for promotion from the Dr Martens League Premier Division, Margate, at Hartsdown Park on Saturday.
The conditions were far from ideal. The pitch was pretty much perfect, but there was a cold wind blowing straight up the pitch and the temperature was more appropriate for late October not mid July.
Manager Frank Murphy, fielded an experimental squad with five triallists of varying experience, together with half a dozen of last season's squad. It was certainly a disadvantage for the Dons that Margate had already played a friendly and that little bit of cohesiveness was apparent from the kick-off.
Indeed it took just 183 seconds for them to exploit their advantage, Mohammed TAKALOBIGASHI - known conveniently as Mo Tako - finding himself in a fair amount of space near the penalty spot. His drive was angled beyond Farai Jackson, a former Hendon youth-team goalkeeper, who had no chance with the shot.
Hendon had the wind at their backs in the first half but the front duo of Davis Haule and newcomer Derek Elliott failed to gel. They often found themselves making the same run which gave Margate's less-than-certain defence an easier time than they deserved. Nevertheless, a couple of clearances managed to almost embarrass home 'keeper Lee Turner.
After 38 minutes, Gary Fitzgerald attempted to shepherd a hopeful downfield ball into touch, but it failed to oblige, so he knocked the ball out play. The ball was quickly thrown in and it again fell to TAKO, who fired past Jackson with a low sidefoot.
Margate made a couple of changes at half-time, but the chat in the Hendon dressing room had a greater benefit for the visitors. Hendon were on top for almost all of the second period, but a goal just would not come.
Clear-cut chances were still hard to find. After 49 minutes Haule was 10 yards offside as he latched on a rebounding clearance that may have been going in, but Turner probably had covered. Then Bill Edwards and Jay Saunders somehow managed to slice an attempted clearance off each other and just past Turner's right post.
The best chance to fall Hendon's way came in the 74th minute. Dale Binns and Nathan Edwards combined and the cross was perfectly flighted into the path of Bontcho Guentchev. With time to pick his spot, the Bulgarian chose one occupied by Turner, who was grateful to catch the powerful effort. A gentle nod-down would have brought some hope for Hendon to get something out of the game.
Instead, within two minutes, Margate had made it 3-0, Tom PLANCK reacting quickly to a cut-back from Gary Blackford. Jackson made two fine second-half saves but these were from rare Margate forays into Hendon territory.
Murphy said, "It was a typical first preseason game for the lads, trying to blow the cobwebs and looking at different players. We looked at 18 today."