Hendon and Kingstonian took part in a pulsating game at Kingsmeadow on Saturday afternoon, and it was Hendon that just about shaded the contest with a solitary goal. The Greens' 4th consecutive victory consolidates their 5th place in the Ryman League Premier Division, but if this game had ended 6-6, it would have reflected the finishing that both teams' approach-work merited.
Dave Hunt came in for Steve Forbes in the starting line-up, while Martin Randall was fit enough to take a seat on the subs bench. The new formation remained in place and just about passed its sternest test.
In the 3rd minute, a sharp drive from Scott Steele was expertly caught by Dave King just inside his near post. The goalkeeper then produced an oustanding save to deny Steele again, 8 minutes later, this time plunging low to his right to keep out a firm side-foot.
The attack had built down the Ks' right flank and when the ball came across from Stafford Browne, Steele appeared to have half the goal to aim at - until King intervened.
Hendon's first attack of real danger brought the game's only goal. In the 14th minute, a Hendon raid caused the home defence to panic and two attempts to clear the ball, from Ricci Crace and Eugene Ofori, failed miserably.
Hunt picked up the loose ball and slipped a pass to Ofori, who had lost his marker. Although he was forced wide, OFORI still had time to control theball and he fired an early shot that cannoned off the inside of the near post and somehow found the net despite the close proximity of goalkeeper Lance Key.
Five minutes later, an astute chip from Crace released Ofori, who sprinted past the last defender and had only Key to beat. The goalkeeper was quickly off his line, but Ofori really should have hit the target. Instead the ball flew inches wide and high of the target.
In the 27th minute, Kingstonian had to make a change when skipper Mark Beard limped off, to be replaced by debutant Chris Bangura. He had been involved in a couple of challenges with Jon-Barrie Bates, then found himself in a sandwich between Crace, Stephen Broad and Key.
Almost immediately, Ks came close to an equaliser when a corner from Liam Collins was met by Broad. His free header beat King, but crashed off the top of the crossbar and bounced away to safety.
Things got worse for Ks when, after 35 minutes, they had to make a second substitution. Steele limped off with a recurrence of a groin injury and Dave Timothy replaced him.
In the 41st minute, Mark Cooper was cautioned for a needless challenge from behind near to the touchline on halfway. Referee Peter Yeo, who had an excellent game allowing the game to flow whenever possible, finally ran out of patience with the flying challenges from both sides.
Three minutes into the 5 of stoppage time at the end of the first half, King produced his best save of the match, acrobatically tipping over a goalbound header from Browne following a cross from Matt Elverson.
The opening 13 minutes of the second half saw Hendon hit the frame of the Kingstonian goal three times, and not once did the rebound favour them. In the 48th minute, Ofori dived full length to meet a cross from the influential Andy Cook, but the bounced off the inside of the post and bounced into Key's arms.
A minute later, Crace fired a speculative shot from 25 yards that beat Key but struck the outside the post and bounced away. Hunt then saw his deflected shot loop over Key, off the top of the bar and into the crowd with Key a spectator.
Steve Butler was comfortably the best defender on view and he made a number of telling interventions. However, he was beaten by an excellent turn and pass from Browne, but Grant Payne couldn't keep his shot low enough.
Scott Cousins and Anthony Howard were forced to do much more defensive work, but they handled the danger out wide. King's handling was much more confident, even under pressure. The only times Hendon's lead was really threatened were when possession was lost in midfield. When, in the 75th minute, a pass from Jon-Barrie Bates gave Payne the chance to attack, but Mark Burgess made a timely intervention.
Timothy picked up a late caution for a bad foul on Cooper, who wisely didn't react. As the game moved into the stoppage time, Pat Gavin came on for the exhausted Crace, but this was little more than a time-wasting exercise.
"This was one of the best games I've seen for a long time," enthused manager Dave Anderson. "It was a real battle and we beat a very good Kingstonian side."