Hendon did just about enough to deserve their 2-1 victory over Dagenham & Redbridge in the fourth round of the London Senior Cup at Claremont Road on Wednesday night. It sets up a quarter-final tie against Redbridge or Barkingside, also at Claremont Road, early in the new year.
Four of the Hendon line-up at kick-off were starting their third match in five days: goalkeeper Dave King, defender Steve Good, midfielder Jeff Campbell and striker Blaise O'Brien, while two others - Adilson Lopes and Jimmy Froud - were doing so for the first time in the first team. In addition, Ross Pickett played in the unusual role of central defender.
In the opening minute a shot from O'Brien flew across the face of goal. The young Dagenham defence took a little while to settle, and they did so without conceding a goal, although John Frendo and Froud both had chances to score.
The opening goal came in the 29th minute. Awarded a free-kick a little controversially, Hendon took full toll as Campbell struck a fine shot that took a small deflection on its way into the roof of the net. Goalkeeper Simon Overland was struggling to reach the ball before the touch took it further away.
Dagenham began to come into the game as the half drew to a close, but the Hendon defence held firm. The weather deteriorated as the evening progressed and by the early stages of the second half, the rain was teeming down.
This made things awkward for both goalkeepers and while Overland did not have to do a huge amount of handling, this was not a night either stopper will recall with too much fondness in terms of overall performance.
In the 62nd minute, King came for a corner but didn't deal with it. The ball bobbled around before Ashley Vickers slammed it into the Hendon net for the Dagenham equaliser.
The spectre of extra time loomed because neither team looked like breaking down the other. Bai Mas Lettejallow and Matt Judge were brought on by the Daggers, while Hendon introduced Byron Bubb for O'Brien.
Hendon's winner, in the 79th minute, came out of almost nothing. A cross invited Frendo to go for the ball with Overland and the goalkeeper couldn't gather it. The ball bounced around the penalty area, with Overland again unable to reach it - it appeared as if he was impeded - before reaching Froud, who drove it into the net of the goalkeeper's hands.
Hendon made their two final changes, removing Lopes and Froud and bringing on Danny Julienne and Danny Edwards. They helped to shore up the midfield and ensured that there were no more alarums and excursions in the Greens' own box.
"We're like a little steam train, chugging along," said manager Gary McCann. "We've won three in a row - in five days - and now we have something to look forward to in the new year. I'm still looking to improve the squad, but we are beginning to look like the team I thought we would be."