|Competition:||Isthmian League Premier Division|
|Date:||Tuesday 09 September 2008|
Hendon slipped to a fifth defeat of the season against new Ryman League Premier Division leaders Dover Athletic, a result that was utterly undeserved after 44 minutes, but quite correct over the full 90. The difference between the two sides was very little until play in the penalty areas is factored in: then Dover were in a different class.
Kevin Maclaren returned to the starting line-up in place of Chris Bangura, but in his usual defensive role, James Burgess moved into midfield with Lubomir Guentchev taking a more attacking role. On the bench was Kayan Kalipha, a striker or midfielder on a month's loan from League Two club Dagenham & Redbridge.
Dover started very brightly and forced a corner in the opening minute, but it came to nothing. Their danger was evident and, in the eighth minute, Berkley Lawrencin produced an excellent save to keep out a drive from Jon Wallis. A couple more efforts fizzed narrowly off target before Hendon had even put together an attack worth the name.
Once Hendon had worked out that there was value in attacking down the Dover left, they got into the game. Guentchev, who had a field day against James Rogers, forced a fine stop from John Whitehouse after 14 minutes.
For the next half-hour, although Dover did look dangerous on the counter-attack, it was the Greens who were in control. After 24 minutes, Hendon really should have taken the lead when Guentchev was tripped by Rogers outside the penalty area.
He kept his feet and was allowed to continue thanks to an excellent advantage played by the referee. Guentchev looked up as he reached the by-line and spotted the unmarked Sam Byfield less than ten yards from goal directly in front of the posts. The cross was perfectly weighted and placed - the header was never close to the target.
Whether that was the worst miss of the half is debatable because, two minutes later, Jamie Busby did superbly well to wriggle his way past three defenders to find himself 12 yards from goal with only a static Whitehouse in front of him. A shot into either corner had to produce a goal. But such is his lack of confidence at present that Busby elected to pass to Byfield.
It would be harsh to criticise Byfield for failing to take the chance because not only would he not have expected a pass from a player better positioned than himself but also the ball was played a little behind him.
In the 35th minute, a ball was played into James Bent, who got in front Dean Hill. The defender ran into the back of Bent, who had slowed down, and knocked down the Hendon player. Technically, it should have been a penalty, but Bent did everything to instigate the contact, much like a defender shielding a ball over the goalline for a goalkick. It definitely wasn't a dive but, morally, the decision to play on was the correct one.
Having dominated and failed to take chances, Hendon were hit with a sucker punch moments before half-time and it was a clear case of the self-destruct button being pushed. Wallis attacked down the right wing and was just outside the penalty area, a dozen or yards from the goalline, when his run was ended by a rash challenge from Lawrencin, who appeared to slip as he made what was, in any case, a needless attempt to win the ball.
Dover fans bayed for both a penalty and a red card, but got a free-kick and a caution for Lawrencin. They got their just desserts as Nicky Southall - on loan from Gillingham - delivered an inch-perfect free-kick right on the forehead of the unmarked Shaun Welford. His header was never missing the target and, 30 seconds later, Dover were taking oranges with a one-goal lead.
Five minutes into the second half, they sealed their victory, although there was some controversy about the second goal. Marc Leach appeared to be fouled from behind by Welford as he was about to sent a pass towards the Dover penalty area.
Instead, the ball bobbled only a few yards forward and Leach crumpled to the ground. He wasn't badly hurt, but was completely out of position as the ball was ferried forward to Frannie Collin, who was forced wide by Maclaren. The defender, however, didn't risk making a challenge, fearing he might concede a penalty. The result was that Collin spotted a chance to shoot and he drilled a low effort unerringly past Lawrencin into the bottom corner.
This goal knocked the stuffing out of Hendon, who continued to try to play football, but there were neither an end-product, nor even many reasonable chances. Kalipha came on for the increasingly anonymous Byfield after 64 minutes and quickly showed a couple of nice touches.
In the 69th minute, Kalipha did well to get past Matt Fish and drilled a cross towards the middle of the penalty area. With a little less power behind the ball, Guentchev might have been able to control a cushioned header towards the angle of the near post and crossbar. Instead, the ball pretty much knocked him over and the header flew over the bar.
Although Hendon continued to see plenty of possession and frequently got to the edge of the Dover penalty area, the most likely goalscorers were all wearing red Dover shirts. Lawrencin made an excellent low save from Welford, then watched gratefull as two other shots went just wide of the posts.
The introduction of Danny Dyer, for Burgess, gave Hendon greater options out wide, but there was feeling they were chasing a lost cause. The Greens did have one final chance, but Kalipha's hopes of a debut goal were denied by a good block from Hill.
"We have spent the last three training sessions working on our finishing," said frustrated manager Gary McCann, "but the boys seem to lack the confidence to take responsibility for shooting when they are in good positions. We played some excellent football in the first half, but there was no end-product.
"Our confidence is a little low at present and it is my job to get the boys up for our forthcoming games."
|12||Kayan Kalipha||for 11 , 64|
|15||Danny Dyer||for 2 , 72|
|15||Sam Jones||for 11 , 84|
|16||Nathan Bailey||for 9 , 80|
|17||John Keister||for 6 , 77|