Hendon slipped to just their second league defeat of the season at a windy Claremont Road on Saturday afternoon. In an entertaining game, played out in front of a crowd of 1005, it was AFC Wimbledon who ran out victors. However, had the Greens been able to take some of their chances they created it could have been very different.
There was just one change to the starting line-up that won at Horsham seven days earlier, with Davis Haule being replaced by Belal Aiteouakrim, and it was Aiteouakrim who came close to giving the Greens an early lead inside the first minute, but his shot flew narrowly wide of the goal.
Both teams won corners in the first few minutes, but in the 8th minute the Wombles were given a penalty when the referee, who had an excellent game, ruled that Marc Leach handled the ball. Many observers from both sides felt that the decision was harsh.
Chris Hussey stepped up to take the spot-kick and sent the ball low into the corner of the net having sent Luke Blackmore the other way. Ten minutes later Steve Ferguson had a good chance to extend the lead when his headed effort was tipped wide by Blackmore.
Shortly afterwards, Hendon were awarded a free-kick in a good position after Aiteouakrim was fouled by Wimbledon skipper Jason Goodliffe. Leach stepped up, but his shot rebounded off the ball and Jamie Busby's follow-up flew over the bar.
In the 36th minute AFC Wimbledon had a second penalty shout when it appeared that Daniel Webb was felled in the penalty area. However the referee ruled that no offence had occurred and the game continued.
In fact, it took just another two minutes for the visitors to double their lead and it was a well worked goal. Webb worked his way to the byline and sent over a delicious cross that Romone Rose, who had managed to lose his marker, rose unmarked to head home leaving Blackmore with no chance of reaching the ball.
Shortly before half-time Wimbledon's Rob Quinn was booked for a nasty looking challenge on Lee O'Leary. A melee ensued and both Hendon's Casey Maclaren and Wimbledon's Tony Finn were cautioned for their part in the proceedings.
As the game moved into first half stoppage time, Hendon had a couple of good chances. Firstly Aiteouakrim made a good run into the penalty area but was crowded out by the Wombles defence, whilst the Greens were unable to take advantage of two fumbles by visiting keeper James Pullen, one of which saw a shot squirm under his body and require a goalline clearance to stop a goal.
In the second half, Hendon took the game to AFC Wimbledon, and whilst the visitors seemed content to stick with the long ball option throughout the half, the home side got the ball down and consequently caused problems going forward and certainly won the battle in midfield.
Four minutes into the half, Danny Dyer sent in a low driver from distance, but Pullen was able to make an easy save, meanwhile at the other end Ferguson shot wide. Ten minutes later Busby had a 30 yard drive blocked on the edge of the area and the ball bounced away to safety.
Shortly after the hour mark, O'Leary delivered a through ball that ran just out of reach of Dyer. Had there been just a touch more accuracy on the midfielder's pass, Dyer would surely have been in on goal as he had beaten the offside trap all ends up.
With twenty minutes to go, Hendon made a double change, sacrificing Leach and Dyer and bringing on further attacking options in the shape of Lubomir Guentchev and Davis Haule.
AFC Wimbledon's best chance of the second half came from a well worked free kick, but Sam Hatton's strike failed to test Luke Blackmore. The Hendon stopper didn't have a save to make throughout the second half.
For most of the last quarter of an hour the action was in and around the Wimbledon box as the Greens tried to fashion a way back into the game. Probably the best chance came in the 80th minute when Guentchev worked himself into a bit of space and he drove a shot off the post with Pullen beaten, and Brian Haule's follow-up would have flown into the net had Hussey not pulled off a great goalline clearance.
Two minutes later it was Sam Page's turn to see his effort saved when he headed a Guentchev free-kick straight at Pullen, and then Brian Haule was back in the action when he was nearly in on goal but Pullen quickly closed him down and managed to grab the ball.
The Greens continued to pile the pressure on as the game moved into injury time, and the final chance of the game fell to the younger Haule brother but his shot was well saved by Pullen who tipped the ball wide for a corner.
"Obviously I'm disappointed with the result" said manager Gary McCann after the game "but I'm pleased with our overall performance, although we need to take our chances when they come along. We can take plenty of positives from the game and the players can hold their heads up high."