Hendon recorded their 14th consecutive Ryman League Premier Division game without defeat and 16th in all competitions when they brushed aside the challenge from Maidenhead United, 3-1, at Claremont Road on Saturday afternoon. The goalscoring hero was an unlikely one in that right-sided midfielder Antony Howard netted his first two for the club.
Dave King and Andy Cook returned to the team following the midweek victory over Hornchurch, taking over from Danny Naisbitt and Dwayne Plummer, respectively. But the most crucial decisions of the day were made by Maidenhead, who elected not to risk first-choice keeper Phil Wilson, playing Nick Hart in his place, and to play into the strengthening wind in the first half.
In the second minute, King was right on the edge of the penalty area as he dealt with a swirling cross Danny Bolt. But his hands appeared to be outside the box, a couple of yards from the goalline, as he took the ball off Lawrence Yaku's head. The assistant referee could not have made the decision and Keith Yeo, who had a superb game in the middle, was unable to get in line either.
In the eighth minute, former Magpie Andy Cook tried his luck with a 25-yard shot that flew inches over Hart's bar. Three minutes later, Hart made a superb low save to divert a shot by Ricci Crace, who had an otherwise unimpeded run at goal after being put through by Eugene Ofori.
The opening goal came in the 18th minute. Hendon built up an attack down the right flank. Steve Forbes attempted to cross the ball in, but it rebounded from a defender into the path of Howard, whose low cross was drilled to the feet of Ofori. With a defender right on his back, OFORI had to swivel before lifting a shot that kissed the underside of the crossed before hitting the roof of the net for his 26th goal of the season.
It took only three minutes for Hendon to double their lead. The hard work was done by Cook, who rode a couple of challenges before setting up a chance for HOWARD, whose shot was accurate, but Hart dived over the ball and it rolled into the net.
Maidenhead struck back quickly and it was 2-1 within 90 seconds. Bolt was the provider with a deep cross. The ball hung in the wind and as King desperately tried to get to it, he was beaten by YAKU who was unmarked beyond the far post.
Undaunted, Hendon returned to the attack and got a third goal just past the half-hour mark. Crace found himself hemmed in by a couple of defenders on the angle of the Magpies' penalty area, but he was able to wriggle away from them and deliver a cross to the far post. Hart didn't come for the ball and HOWARD had plenty of time to steady himself before nodding it just inside the far post.
A rare misplaced defensive clearance gave Yaku the chance to get his second goal of the afternoon. He saw King a long way off his line and tried to lob the giant goalkeeper. It was always going to be an ambitious attempt into the wind and he failed to get enough power, so the back-tracking King was able to make a relatively comfortable save.
In the last minute of the half, Crace tried his luck with long-range shot. He was disappointed to watch the ball swerve late and go less than a yard wide of the post with Hart well beaten.
The second half was a strangely muted affair. Jon-Barrie Bates, Cook and Forbes dominated the midfield, while Hendon's defence, with Mark Burgess, Mark Cooper and Steve Butler in commanding form, deliberately played deeper than usual, forcing Maidenhead to play longer passes which the wind almost invariably took out of play.
Scott Cousins had Hendon's best second half effort, a curling drive that dipped about a foot too late. Early in the second half, Crace picked up a knock and he was replaced by Pat Gavin and later in the period Dale Binns took over from the tiring Ofori. He had one powerful on target drive blocked.
For Maidenhead, it was a return to Claremont Road to forget for Rob Haworth. He did have the Magpies' three best chances of the second half, but he failed to put any on target, missing with an audacious flick and planting a pair of headers wide.
"This is the sort of game that I will enjoy more tomorrow when I read the paper," said manager Dave Anderson. "The second half really was rather poor, but the conditions made it that way. We deliberately played deep and they fell into the trap of over-hitting the ball.. The conditions were treacherous out there but we did our job well."