Hendon threw away two points with a final third collapse that had manager Gary McCann fuming at Stag Meadow on Tuesday night. For 60 minutes, the Dons were in complete control against struggling Windsor & Eton, but had only a single goal to show for it, Then, in the last half-hour, they stopped playing, allowed the winless Royalists back into the game and ended up hanging on for even a point.
Craig Hughes' excellent cameo as a substitute on Saturday earned him a starting berth at the expense of John Frendo, who dropped to the bench. Also on the bench was Danny Julienne, in place of James Burgess.
In the opening 15 minutes, both teams sparred with each other looking for an opening but none were forthcoming. Then, when Hendon were awarded a free-kick 25-30 yards from goal, Jeff Campbell drilled a shot that Keiron Drake saved low down and he did well not to let the ball get away from him.
After 27 minutes, Crace had a great chance to open the scoring when he was put through by Campbell. He brought down the ball well and had a clear shot at goal, but he miskicked and the ball bobbled through to Drake.
Six minutes later, however, Crace made no mistake. Hughes did well to get in front of Jamie Jarvis and he knocked the ball out to the left flank where Danny Murphy was in space. Murphy's long diagonal picked out Crace, who again lost his marker, but this time made good contact with the ball. Drake came out to narrow the angle, but any chance of making a save disappeared with a deflection from a defender.
Just before half-time, Windsor almost got back into the game when Lee Holsgrove found his brother Peter with a free-kick. Peter Holsgrove turned and shot low, but the ball bounced off a post into the arms of a relieved Dave King.
Good value for their half-time advantage, Hendon started the second period in confident fashion. Crace was denied by an excellent save from Drake. Hughes and Murphy both had chances to extend the Dons' advantage but failed to do so.
Then, after 60 minutes, the game changed. The catalyst was an injury to a Windsor player and, before play could restart, Dave Carroll was replaced by Danny Smart. From that point, Hendon stopped playing and Windsor began to get back into the game. After 69 minutes, King came off his line to deal with a through ball, which he did.
Unfortunately, he, Marvyn Watson and Windsor's David Warner got entangled. King was relatively unscathed, Watson needed some treatment, but he got off lightly compared to Warner who was stretchered off the pitch and was later taken to hospital with a serious ankle injury, either damaged ligaments or a break.
The Dons' self-destruct button was pushed after 73 minutes. It started with a throw-in from Watson, which was a little away from Dave Hunt. The midfielder still should have done better than sticking out a lazy leg because Paul Coyne knocked the ball away from him and released Jamie Cox, the substitute for Warner. Cox was too fast for RenÃƒÂ© Street, who missed his tackle altogether, and almost for Marc Leach.
Unfortunately for Hendon, the only contact Leach made with Cox was when the substitute had gone around him and, although Cox had knocked the ball almost into King's hands, Leach's challenge brought him down. The referee appeared happy to let play continue, but his assistant flagged for the foul and the man in the middle then awarded the penalty. King guessed correctly that Peter Holsgrove would shoot to the right, but the big goalkeeper couldn't reach the ball as it arrowed inside the near post.
Windsor continued to prosper, especially when Hendon had throw-ins and the Dons went through a spell of about five minutes when they could not get three consecutive touches of the ball, much to the increasing frustration of the bench. In the last ten minutes, Ross Pickett, Frendo and Jimmy Froud were sent on, for Hughes, Crace and Murphy, respectively, but although the Royalists' domination was less, Hendon didn't really look like regaining the initiative.
"This was an absolutely certain two points dropped tonight," fumed Mr McCann after heated words had been exchanged in the dressing room. "We were completely on top for an hour, but after the first injury we just stopped playing.
"There were four individual errors for their goal: the throw-in, Dave Hunt not controlling the ball, Rene Street missing his tackle and Marc Leach tripping their man. And not once to did a teammate try to help out. I am furious."