Hendon returned to their early season form and recorded a first home League victory since November with a comfortable 3-1 victory over Ashford Town (Middlesex). And the Greens had to do it the hard way after conceding a goal within a minute of the kick-off.
James Parker and Lee O'Leary returned to the starting line-up at the expense of Danny Dyer and James Burgess, while Ben Hudell was named as a substitute after missing a week short of six months with a knee injury.
Hendon had the kick-off, but lost possession within five seconds and, ten seconds later, a clumsy foul on the edge of the penalty area gave Ashford a great opportunity. It took almost 40 seconds for the free0kick to be taken, but once Paul Johnson had struck the ball, only the goalnet was going to stop it.
Given the Greens' recent home form - five draws and two defeats - to describe this as the worst possible start would be a gigantic understatement. And, not surprisingly, it was the Ash-Trees who looked like a playoff-bound team. They created two or three chances, but could not find a way past the central defensive pairing of Marc Leach and Parker and goalkeeper Luke Blackmore.
Gradually, Hendon began to get a toe-hold in the game. Their passing improved and the contest became more even. In the 19th minute, Lubomir Guentchev was almost put through by Lee O'Leary, but Paul Burgess dived at the young Bulgarian's feet and smothered the ball well.
In the 29th minute, a diagonal ball from Casey Maclaren invited Brian Haule and Guentchev to go for it. Haule was denied any chance of reaching it by a desperate tug from Adam Logie, while Guentchev couldn't quite get his toe on the ball. The latter's attempt was made irrelevant by the blast of the referee's whistle, awarding Hendon a penalty. Brian Haule tucked away the penalty superbly, beating Paul Burgess's dive.
For most of the rest of the half, Hendon were on top without actually creating any clear cut chances. Two or three clearances from defenders were less than assured, but they did the job. Then, on the stroke of half-time, Hendon took the lead with a fine goal.
A cross from Guentchev was too strong for Belal Aiteouakrim, Brian Haule and O'Leary, but O'Leary chased the ball out to right touchline. He was shadowed by Darren Deegan and shaped to turn back towards his own goal. Instead, however, he shimmied the other way and sent over a first time cross which Aiteouakrim volleyed home with a cushioned shot. It was superb strike, given the ball was a couple of feet off the ground.
Hendon made a change at half-time, Rakatahr Hudson replacing Guentchev in a move designed to add more of a physical presence to the midfield. It was an excellent tactical move because while Hendon might have a lost a little bit in terms of flair, this was a game where a little brawn was more decisive. One trademark Hudson run felled four Ash-Trees and only the last contact was ruled illegal.
For the first ten minutes of the second half, Hendon were pinned in their own half. Indeed, there was a spell of about three minutes, when the ball was never more than 25 yards away from the Hendon goalline. But, one save from Blackmore apart, Ashford did nothing with their possession.
After 66 minutes, Hendon scored their third and it was one of the goals of the season. It started with a Paul Burgess clearance, which Parker brought down. He passed across to Leach, who fed Davis Haule and he moved the ball onto O'Leary. The ball continued across to the right side where, Casey Maclaren - who last week became the youngest person ever to complete The Knowledge and become a fully licensed black cab driver (even if he is ten days too young to actually take passengers) - made inroads into the Ashford defence.
Maclaren spotted Jamie Busby in space and his pass allowed the midfielder to turn past Gavin Bamford. Busby drilled a low cross, perfectly weighted, into the path of Brian Haule, who drove a shot under the body of Burgess into the net. Seven crisp passes moving from left to right to centre covering two-thirds of the pitch. No wonder there was no defender close to Haule as he shot.
Burgess made a fine save to deny Busby and both Aiteouakrim and Brian Haule failed to take chances to add to their evening's goal tally, but the game was safely in Hendon's grasp. The Greens brought on both Iavor Guentchev (for Davis Haule) and Hudell (for Aiteouakrim) in the final half-dozen or so minutes, but this was little more than an exercise in playing out time.
"This was our best League performance for a long time," said manager Gary McCann, "better than the one at Horsham, but only just.
"I can't praise the players enough for their effort tonight. We could not have made a worse start and with our recent form, it is no surprise that we took a little while to get going. But we battled hard and, after the first 15 minutes - apart from maybe the first ten minutes of the second half - we were completely on top."