Hendon won their annual pre-season fixture with landlords Wembley 2-1 this afternoon at Vale Farm, but by the narrowest margin in the six years that the two sides have met regularly, with previous results including 10-0, 7-0 and 8-2 wins.
While the home side were largely using the game to fine tune their side in their last friendly before the start of their league season, the Greens, in the unusual role of visitors, were still experimenting with seven trialists in their squad of 19. Noel Imber, previously with Boreham Wood, started in goal, while Isaiah Rankin and Elliott Godfrey got a third and second game for the club respectively. Making up the remaining four on the bench were the familiar face of Bradley Fraser along with Gus Angel, Alan Murray and Rashid Obadi.
Hendon started by far the stronger of the two teams, near enough dominating the game in terms of both and chances for the first 25 minutes or so and Casey Maclaren opened the scoring in just the sixth minute, albeit unintentionally. The midfielder received the ball wide on the right, but all of 30 yards from the goal-line and rather than making use of the overlapping run from James Parker, decided to put a cross into the six yard box. The ball in was poorly judged, but to Hendon's advantage as it ended up on target and eluded the goalkeeper's efforts to prevent it from hitting the net at the far post.
Hendon carried on in the same vein, with Jamie Busby striking the ball from around 20 yards just a minute later, but finding Wembley's custodian equal to his effort, getting down smartly to his right and smothering the ball.
However, the Greens weren't to be denied further goals and again Casey Maclaren was at the centre of things. James Parker fed the older of the Maclaren brothers, who played the ball into the near post where Rankin was lurking and the former Arsenal forward made no mistake even under pressure from two red shirts as he flicked the ball home at the near post.
At 2-0 up, thoughts around the ground were of a repeat of previous scorelines, but it wasn't to be despite a continuing spate of chances. On 17 minutes a through ball was headed clear by the 'keeper from just outside his area under pressure from Godfrey, but it ended up at the feet of James Fisher who was disappointed to miss the target from 30 yards.
Then five minutes later, Jamie Busby forced a superb save, Wembley's goalkeeper redeeming his early blushes by clawing the ball onto the post from an 18 yard rifled shot through a crowd of players. The ball escaped to a green shirt, but under pressure it ended up going over the crossbar.
In between those two chances though, the first signs of the tide turning came. Craig Carby (formerly known as Craig Vargas) was bringing the ball out of defence when he was disposessed and the Lions found themselves clear. Michael Peacock tried to cover, but was taken out by a good pass into the middle of the penalty area, but Hendon were saved by Imber, who made a good stop, advancing and dropping straight onto the ball as the shot came in.
Wembley started to get to grips with the Greens, and the game settled down for much of the remainder of the half, until just a minute before half time Hendon had a corner. The ball leaked out to near the edge of the box where Michael Peacock sent a drive in through a crowd of players. Another excellent save, this time with his legs, from the Lions' keeper set off a dangerous looking counter-attack, but with the home side having a man advantage, one player failed to check his run and was flagged offside.
Hendon made the usual series of half time substitutions, and this seemed to have an effect on the second half, with Wembley stepping things up and the Greens looking more disjointed. The nominal visitors may have had the first good effort on goal, Peacock sending another striker over, but it was the home team that drew first blood.
A ball was played through the inside left channel where Daryl Atkins ran onto it, and with one touch near the corner of the penalty area to control the ball the forward fired a near unstoppable shot past Imber.
Wembley continued to probe and just three minutes later spurned a similar chance, firing into the net at the near post, albeit with Imber looking like he had the situation well under control.
As the game went into the final twenty mintues, the game began to settle, and while Hendon had the final couple of good chances, they failed to trouble the target; Busby putting a shot across the goal and wide and a set piece being flicked across goal, but too high for a Green head to get the finishing touch.
"It was a typical preseason game," said manager Gary McCann afterwards. "We started strongly and I was pleased with how we played in the first half. However, Wembley stepped it up, and with all the changes we made in the second it was difficult for us to find our rhythm again and keep that level of performance up.
"However, we tried a few new things out today, we have players still to come in and we're only halfway through pre-season, so I'm quite happy overall."