Hendon were indebted to Casey Maclaren for salvaging a vital Ryman League Premier Division point against struggling Folkestone Invicta at Claremont Road on Saturday. The Greens have now failed to win at home for seven matches, picking up just five points and Saturday's pair double the goals scored in that spell to four.
The 11 starters who did so well against Bromley in the London Senior Cup in midweek were rewarded with starting places against Invicta and, for the first 90 or so seconds, Hendon were on top, forcing a free-kick and a corner, neither of which came to anything. It proved to be the Greens' best spell of the entire opening half.
After eight minutes, Leigh Bremner tried his luck with a snap-shot from 22 yards. He beat Luke Blackmore to the goalkeeper's left, but the ball was dragged just wide of the post too. Bremner showed his willingness to shoot on a couple of other occasions, but his accuracy didn't match his enterprise.
In a turgid first half, which Folkestone dominated without creating many clear-cut chances, they took a deserved lead after half an hour. It was Bremner who instigated it with a neat diagonal ball through the heart of the Hendon defence. Charlie Glyde sprinted onto the pass and flicked the ball past the onrushing Blackmore without a defender moving.
Sam Page, captaining the side in the absence of James Parker, was Hendon's best defender making two or three telling interventions, but Hendon's problems were really in midfield where neither Lubo Guentchev nor Danny Dyer, the wide players, were able to get much good possession, and Jamie Busby and Davis Haule were closed down even more effectively in the middle of the park.
Starved of the ball, Brian Haule and Belal Aiteouakrim both went looking for it, with the consequence that both players were too close to each other to offer an outlet option when they got control of it.
Dyer was unable to continue after a heavy challenge and left the pitch in first-half stoppage time, to be replaced by Lee O'Leary. In first-half stoppage time, Marc Leach should have equalised when a free-kick was knocked down to him, but he blasted over the crossbar from ten yards out.
Hendon's management team let the players know how disappointed they were with the first half performance and demanded much more from them after the break. They got their wish and the Greens were level within three minutes of the restart.
Busby made a run towards the edge of the penalty area and when O'Leary found him, Busby wrapped his foot around the ball to turn it into the path of Brian Haule. He was quick to react and rolled the ball past Luke Stonebridge into the unguarded net.
Any hopes from Hendon fans that this would signal an upturn in fortune soon disappeared as the game continued to be played in the middle third, though at least the Greens were far more competitive.
James Burgess was at the centre of the next major moment, in the 75th minute, when he was adjudged to have brought down Glyde inside the Hendon penalty area. Kevin Watson stepped up and sent Blackmore the wrong way, placing the ball to goalkeeper's left with a very confident spot-kick.
Rakatahr Hudson replaced Burgess for the final ten minutes, but he didn't really get into the game. But Hendon's desperation got reward with five minutes to go. A corner was not properly cleared and Maclaren lifted the ball over a crowd of players and it went just inside the angle of post and crossbar with Stonebridge nowhere near the ball.
As the game moved into stoppage time, Hendon had a penalty appeal turned down when Maclaren tried to flick back a ball, but it struck the arm of a defender a yard away from him. The defender, to be fair to him, certainly didn't raise his arm or move away from his body, so it would have been terribly harsh on him if Hendon had won the decision.
"The first 45 minutes cost us dearly," said manager Gary McCann. "We were fortunate to go into half-time trailing by only 1-0. We were very poor in every part of the game. After half-time things were much better, but we had left ourselves a mountain to climb."