Hendon's run of misfortune in the Ryman League continued on Saturday when they outshot AFC Hornchurch 5-1 in terms of efforts on target but still fell to the only goal at Bridge Avenue. After three excellent matches in August and September, this time it was a dull, turgid affair, more like an end-of-season contest, albeit in early February.
A training injury to Jamie Busby saw the midfield weakened further - it meant that three out of the four players in the middle of the park during Hendon's great December run, Busby, Rakatahr Hudson and Scott Shulton, were missing. All in all, there were four changes from the team that beat Corinthian-Casuals, with Richard Wilmot, James Parker, Davis Haule and Brian Haule all starting, with Luke Blackmore, Iavor Guentchev, Danny Dyer and Belal Aiteouakrim dropping to the subs' bench.
Conditions at the exposed sports centre ground were not ideal. The pitch was dead and the wind swirled around, making control of both ball and feet difficult for all players. Hendon, without the departed Wayne O'Sullivan, lacked verve, while the Urchins seemed content to bide their time probing for errors. Their tormentor-in-chief of Hendon in the earlier fixtures was Simon Parker and he was an unused substitute.
The result was not aesthetically pleasing but, given Hendon's recent plight, the Greens were not too concerned to avoid constant pressure. Hornchurch's shooting was in the main absolutely woeful with nothing troubling Wilmot.
After ten minutes, Casey Maclaren and Elliot Styles collided in midair and the pair needed lengthy treatment before they could resume, the former swathed in bandages - which he had to have changed during the first half, leaving Hendon with ten men for around five minutes - not that Hornchurch apparently attempted to profit.
The first effort on target came around the half-hour mark when an excellent interchange between Lubo Guentchev and Sam Collins gave the latter a clear sight of goal. His shot was saved by Dale Brightley, who nearly let the ball slip away from him.
Just before half-time an effort from Davis Haule at an absurdly acute angle was clawed against a post by Brightly, but the goalkeeper was very lucky as the spinning ball could have bounced anywhere off the upright. If spun away to safety.
Out of almost nothing, in the long first-half stoppage time, Hornchurch took the lead. A corner from the right wing was half-cleared. Two Hendon defenders on the left side, near the post, were slow to move upfield so when Des Boateng knocked the ball towards the opposite side of the goal, the unmarked Jamie Richards was not offside.
Richards controlled the ball and lashed it into the net just below the crossbar, giving the exposed Wilmot no chance. Although Richards was in so much space the lack of appeals for offside from the Hendon defence tells its own story.
Nonetheless, in the two minutes that remained of the first half, Hendon almost snatched an equaliser. This time it was Brian Haule who was denied, again the attempt rebounding off the goalpost ant and being hacked away to safety.
Hornchurch should have extended their lead on a couple of occasions in the second half, but Kris Lee and Boateng fired wastefully off-target from good positions. Former Hendon favourite Dean Green was kept reasonably quiet all afternoon, rarely making dangerous forays into the penalty area.
At the other end, the ball simply didn't run for Hendon; the Greens had two or three half-chances, but nothing came of them. Lubo Guentchev forced Brightley into another good save just before the hour mark, but the Urchins were still reasonably comfortable if unambitious.
The travelling Hendon fans in the crowd of 337 almost went home with big smiles on their faces when substitute Aiteouakrim had a great chance in stoppage time. His shot was hit directly at Brightley, who fumbled the ball away and as a green-shirted attacker went to knock in the rebound he was bundled over.
Sadly for the Greens, the referee, who had an excellent game, decided it was not a penalty and he had no angle to see that the ball returning to the arms of Brightley came from a deliberate back-pass.
Of the penalty incident, Urchins manager Colin McBride said, "I didn't have a clear view of it, but my assistant Jimmy MacFarlane said to me that he had seen many penalties given more much less." He added that he felt Hendon certainly deserved something from the game.
Hendon boss Gary McCann said, "We can't buy a win at the moment. We deserved more from the game and I thought we played much more enterprising football than they did."