Hendon ended the 1999-2000 in style with a late 2-1 victory over Heybridge Swifts at Scraley Road on Saturday. It means the Dons end in 8th place in the Ryman League Premier Division for the season, the second-best finish for 13 years (Hendon were 4th in 1987 and 5th in 1998).
Manager Frank Murphy made only one change from the 14 which defeated Carshalton on Monday afternoon, Gary Fitzgerald replacing Nathan Edwards, who had been unwell during the week. Heybridge able to play without pressure having won against Canvey Island on Monday.
The game, as has often been the case with Hendon recently, began with a bang. Davis Haule threaded a pass through to Paul Whitmarsh. It was a little overstruck and Swifts 'keeper Kingsley Banks came out to gather the ball. He just caught the Hendon man, causing the striker to land awkwardly and grasp his ankle in pain.
Two minutes later, while Whitmarsh was still receiving treatment off the field, Banks caught another Hendon player, this time Haule on the thigh.
In the 12th minute, Heybridge nearly opened the scoring, but Kris Lee spooned the ball over the bar from a good position. Four minutes later, Jon Daly headed wide from a Hendon corner.
Hendon were having the better moments, and they deservedly took the lead in the 20th minute. Haule skipped past Ian Wiles and attempted to do the same with Colin Wall. The tall defender, however, lifted his leg and sent Haule crashing to the ground. The assistant referee had no hesitation in signalling for a penalty which Freddie HYATT duly converted with a fine low drive past Banks' dive.
Ten minutes later, Hyatt produced one of the finest pieces of skill in club history. He was on the left wing when he collected a pass from the excellent Warren Kelly. Hyatt was faced by Mark Cranfield, so he flicked the ball up with his heel, sending it high over the defender's head, and ran on to trap the ball as it landed 5 yards behind him. The midfielder could not finish with a goal but the crowd, to a man, applauded in appreciation at a piece of outstanding skill.
Bontcho Guentchev said, "I have played with some of the best players in the world, Hristo Stoichkov, Luis Figo, and I have never seen such a piece of skill in a game." Coach Dave Anderson admitted, "Freddie has done it a few times in training and he told Paul Whitmarsh he was going to do it in the game today."
Two minutes later, Banks charged at Guentchev, causing the former Bulgarian World Cup star to miscontrol the ball after Whitmarsh and Haule had set him up with a great chance. Banks then denied Whitmarsh with a brilliant double save as he ran in on the goalkeeper and a combination of Banks and Wall gave the Hendon man a dead leg, causing him to leave the game 5 minutes before the break. Whitmarsh was replaced by Dominic Gentle.
Within a minute, in controversial circumstances. Matt Bartholomew struggled to deal with a high bouncing ball under pressure from Simon Parker, but Paul Towler was just behind him. Parker passed the ball to Nicky SIMPSON, who seemed to push Towler over and knocked the ball past Iga.
The second half was not as good as the first. The sudden heatwave - 21 days earlier Hendon had been in near-freezing, almost-waterlogged conditions at Basingstoke - drained the players. After 52 minutes, a terrible clearance by Banks was collected by Haule, whose shot lacked the power or accuracy to embarrass the goalkeeper.
In the 58th minute, Hendon spurned another great chance. This time it was Gentle who worked an opening down the right side. He squared the ball to Haule, who could have shot, but instead rolled the ball to set up Guentchev. His attempt to sweep the ball into the net was ruined by one of the few bobbles of the afternoon, the ball lobbing high into the air off his ankle. Two minutes later, Marvyn Watson substituted Guentchev.
Heybridge, prompted by Dave Streetly in midfield, enjoyed much more of the ball as the game progressed, but the Hendon defence rarely offered Swifts a clear sight of target. A succession of high balls were easy meat for the athletic Iga, who has proved an excellent replacement for the injured Gary McCann.
Gary Fitzgerald replaced the tiring Matt Howard, moving Towler to right wing-back. Given the extra space down the right flank. Within a few minutes, the home fans were claiming a penalty as Parker went down in the box, but with the assistant referee not signalling, Mr Pearce let play continue.
Towler shot over from a good position after 81 minutes. Four minutes later, Clarke had the chance to score but he drifted a tame free header into Banks' arms. With a bit of power, or better direction to either side, Clarke would surely have scored. In stoppage time, he played his part in the winner.
Hyatt's right wing corner was flicked over everybody and Bartholomew had to run to the far touchline to retrieve the situation. Fitzgerald came out of the box in support and he took the ball past Cranfield towards the corner flag, before delivering a perfect left-footed cross.
Banks was slow in getting across his goal to the ball and when he jumped he collided with Clarke. Just behind Clarke was HAULE and his header header from 4 yards wasn't the prettiest you'll ever see, but the ball found its way into the Heybridge net for Hendon's winner.
"We played some lovely stuff today," said happy manager Mr Murphy. "Freddie's bit of skill was exceptional, but we battled hard in the second half."