Hendon made it 3 wins on the trot and 3 games with 3 goals scored when Billericay were despatched at Claremont Road on Tuesday night. The win lifts Hendon to 5th in the Ryman League Premier Division, while luckless Billericay dropped back to the bottom on goal difference.
The game was nothing like as comfortable as the scoreline suggests, and it wasn't until Scott Cousins converted a 75th-minute penalty that Hendon fans could breathe easily.
Anthony Howard came in for his first Hendon start at the expense of the injured Iain Duncan and the young defender should have marked the occasion with a goal inside two minutes. He was all alone at the far post when a cross from Andy Cook found him, but instead of a powerful header, he tried to glance it inside the far post and put the ball the wrong side of it.
The greasy ball and murky conditions didn't help either goalkeeper and while Billericay's Jerome John was content to let his defenders deal with crosses, Dave King came for all those delivered into the Hendon box. Some he caught cleanly and his distribution was then excellent. However, 2 or 3 were spilled and this resulted in one of Mark Cooper, Mark Burgess or Steve Butler making hurried clearances.
In the 19th minute, a little against the run of play, Hendon took the lead. A cross from Cousins was met by Steve Forbes, who rose well and thumped a header past John. The ball came off the inside of the post and Ricci CRACE, running in looking for a rebound, got one, although he did have to change direction in mid-stride to divert the ball into the net.
Hendon had a lucky escape in the 24th minute when a header thudded against their crossbar and Steve Jones appeared to a have simple nod-in for the equaliser. Somehow, he managed to get right under the ball and he managed to head it not only over, but also wide of the gaping target. He held his head in abject misery.
The Greens' persistence in chasing defenders paid handsome dividends in the 41st minute. Under pressure from Eugune Ofori, John couldn't decide whether to pass to Gary Henty or Richard Thomas. Instead he split the pair of them and conceded a throw-in 10 yards from his goalline.
The ball was thrown to Cousins, whose first time cross was met by COOK, who rose high above Howard and Billericay's Dave Reddington at the angle of the 6-yard box, beyond the far post. John didn't come for the cross and he didn't make much of an effort to reach Cook's header either, but he had little chance to make a save as the ball looped just under the the angle of crossbar and post as it went back across and over him.
A minute later, Jon-Barrie Bates was caught in possession on the edge of the centre-circle in the Billericay half. The ball was quickly fed to the other end where Marlon Patterson ran onto it. King was very quickly off his line to narrow the angle and he, importantly, stood up, making it difficult for the forward.
With little of the goal to aim at, Patterson tried an extravagant bending shot that never had a chance of finding the target and was cleared away by a retreating defender.
The second half followed a similar pattern to the first. Billericay harrying Hendon's midfield, but the strikers failed to get any change out of the solid-looking trio of Mark Cooper, Steve Butler and Mark Burgess, the latter of whom had blotted his copybook with a mistimed challenge near the touchline that earned him a caution.
Hendon had half-chances, the best of which fell to Howard, but he couldn't quite get the ball out from under his feet and, under pressure from two defenders, he scuffed a shot wide from 8 yards out.
Danny Hockton thought he had pulled a goal back for Billericay midway through the second half, when he smacked a shot past King. But the Blues' luck has been pretty awful in recent weeks and it showed itself again as the ball bounced back off the inside of the post and was hacked to safety.
With 15 minutes to go, Hendon clinched the 3 points. A diagonal pass from Cousins found substitute Dave Hunt in acres of space. His shot was well saved by John's outstretched right foot and it sent the ball high into the air.
As another substitute, Pat Gavin, controlled the ball on his chest, Billericay defenders screamed for handball. Play continued and Gavin slid the ball into the path of Crace. Running away from goal, he tried to take the ball around John, but had his right leg taken away by the goalkeeper.
Referee Mike Tingey (Bucks), had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot. Cousins stepped up to take the kick, but he had to wait for first Henty to be cautioned for protesting too loudly, second substitute Jordan Tolan and the referee to move the ball a few inches around the spot, and finally for Mr Tingey to warn every single Billericay player that any encroachment on a failed kick would result in a retake.
Some nervous penalty-takers would have been unable to compose themselves with all this delay, but COUSINS showed none of that nerve. He confidently sent John the wrong way to make it 3-0.
Manager Dave Anderson said, "Anthony Howard's debut was as good as I have seen in a long time. He has only been here a few days and doesn't know our system, but he slotted in very well.
"Billericay worked very hard and tested us tonight. We had a little bit of luck today and I think we worked for it."