Hendon missed the chance to return to the playoff places in the Ryman League Premier Division when they slipped to a 1-0 defeat against relegation-threatened Boreham Wood at Claremont Road on Tuesday night. With games against two of the top three and three of the top eight, the Greens will have their work cut out to make the top five at the end of the season.
The Greens, unusually, named only the same starting 11 but also the same five substitutes who had been on the teamsheet at Billericay on Saturday. Boreham Wood, on the other hand, named four out of the five players they signed on transfer deadline day, including former Greens Mark Burgess and Craig Vargas.
Brian Haule twice came close to scoring in the opening 15 minutes. His first attempt was when he displayed excellent footwork in stepping between two defenders, but he couldn't get leverage on a shot as Noel Imber came off his line and the goalkeeper made a reasonable save. But he really should have at least his the target when presented with an opening a few minutes later.
It proved a costly miss because, after 17 minutes, the Greens conceded what proved to be the game's only goal. It came from a free-kick 25 yards from goal. Defender Danny Barber lined up the effort, fired a perfect shot into the top corner.
Boreham Wood were on top in the first half as Hendon struggled to make much of an impact. Their passing lacked its usual cohesiveness and the rest of the performance was equally anaemic. A half-time score of 1-0 probably flattered the hosts, even if Boreham Wood had not created much in the way of chances. Just before half-time, skipper James Parker limped off, to be replaced by Ben Hudell.
The first half of the second period followed pretty much the same pattern as the opening 45 minutes. This resulted in two more substitutions being made, Lubo Guentchev taking over from Danny Dyer and James Burgess replacing the earlier substitute Hudell.
Suddenly the Greens found the greater urgency that had been so lacking. Brian Haule had a night to forget. After his two first half misses, he could have still completed a hat-trick. And how he failed to score with a free header from five yards following a beautifully delivered free kick from Marc Leach only he will know. Haule spent the next five seconds kneeling on the ground head in hands.
Belal Aiteouakrim then thundered a drive off the crossbar with Imber beaten. It deserved a goal, but it was going to be one of those nights. Guentchev must have felt the same in the 88th minute, when he struck a shot that brought out the very best in Imber, the goalkeeper acrobatically pushing aside a rasping, rising goalbound drive that seemed destined to end in the top corner.
As the game moved into stoppage time, Hendon almost had the most unlikely of heroes. A pass from Lee O'Leary eluded Brian Haule and Aiteouakrim, but not James Burgess, who sprinted past brother Mark and he would surely have ended his 211-game Hendon drought if the ball had stayed low enough for him to meet with his foot and not bounced up off his shin and into the arms of a very relieved Imber.
"If you don't take your chances, you aren't going to win games," said manager Gary McCann in a terse summing up of the evening. "The first 45 minutes were as poor as we have been in a half all season. There was no excuse for tiredness as there was against Carshalton. We just didn't perform."