Hendon's 1-0 victory over Grays Athletic at Claremont Road on Saturday afternoon meant that the Greens had beaten all three full-time Ryman League clubs this season. Hornchurch, Canvey Island and Grays have all gone down to a single-goal defeat at Claremont Road.
The win was also revenge for the 1-0 defeat Hendon suffered at Grays 18 days earlier. That game did have ramifications for this one because Ricci Crace was still absent suspended. Dwayne Plummer and Eugene Ofori, however, returned after missing the Northwood game with one-match bans and they replaced Jon-Barrie Bates and Martin Randall, respectively.
And it was the two returning players who combined for the game's only goal, in the 8th minute. Plummer played a quick pass that beat the Grays offside trap and sent Ofori clear. Mel Capleton came off his line, but OFORI lifted the ball over him and into the net.
In the 20th minute, Steve Forbes sent Ofori clear, but this time Capleton came out on top of the one-on-one, smothering the ball away. And Ofori also gave Capleton problems with his willing chasing, especially of back-passes, almost blocking one attempted clearance and forcing a couple to be sliced out for throw-ins.
For the remainder of the half, Grays enjoyed almost all of the possession, received practically every free-kick and did absolutely nothing with it. The credit for this must go to the central defensive trio of Antony Howard, Marien Ifura and Mark Cooper, with Scott Cousins and Iain Duncan stifling their attacking instincts to negate danger out wide and Andy Cook winning lots of challenges all around the pitch.
In fact, the only good chance in the last 20 minutes of the half fell to Hendon when Ofori put Plummer clear in the 38th minute. The former Bristol Rovers and Bristol City player went for power as he lifted the ball over Capleton and it flew inches over the crossbar.
The second half followed a very similar pattern to the first with Hendon enjoying the best of the early exchanges and then letting Grays have the ball for long spells. In the 48th minute, Ofori came close to a second goal with an overhead kick which forced Capleton into an excellent acrobatic save.
In the 60th minute, the weather conditions saved Hendon. Forbes and Wes Daly contested a ball in midfield and the ball bounced off the former's knee right into the path of Freddy Eastwood. The prolific goalscorer was put clear and had only Dave King to beat, except that the assistant referee, squinting into the sinking sun, believed it was a Grays player who had sent the ball Eastwood, so he flagged for offside.
Referee Tim Ingram (Basingstoke) blew for a Hendon free-kick and was immediately surrounded by enraged Grays players, while the bench used language that saw Hendon boss Dave Anderson sent to the stand 3 weeks earlier following a referee's decision. After the game Mr Ingram admitted the error, but refused to blame his assistant, who admitted all he saw was silhouettes.
Hendon were now content to play on the counter-attack, hoping Pat Gavin could hold the ball up for the more mobile Ofori and Plummer. Even so, the Greens were feeding on scraps of possession.
As the game moved into stoppage time, King attempted to drop-kick a clearance but it was illegally knocked out of his hands by Martin Carthy. Eastwood slipped the ball into the net but the whistle had already gone for a free-kick. It just summed up Grays' day. They remain still in third place, level with Hendon on 49 points, but 26 behind League leaders Canvey albeit with a game in hand.
"We set out our stall to allow Grays the ball up to the final third," said a delighted Dave Anderson, "but not to allow them any space near goal. The plan worked an absolute treat.
"We knew we had to work very hard, because Grays always work you so hard, being full-timers, and we were determined to stop Freddy Eastwood, who is one of the best centre-forwards in the League. I think we did that."