Hendon, ravaged by injuries - at half-time they had viable 4-4-2 formation of outfield players missing - were held to a 1-1 draw by newly-promoted East Thurrock United at Vale Farm on Tuesday night. Nonetheless the point was enough for the Greens remain one clear of the chasing pack.
James Fisher, Ryan Wharton and Casey Maclaren - all injured on Saturday joined the already out sextet of Elliott Brathwaite, Jerome Federico, Michael Lewis, Lee Oâ€™Leary, Craig Carby and Aaron Morgan, so Bradley Fraser played his first competitive match since April and Kevin Maclaren replaced his brother, while Isaiah Rankin made his first start in place of the rested Greg Ngoyi.
The Greens forced a half-chance in the opening couple of minutes, but the ball would not come down for Rankin and a gaggle of East Thurrock defenders eventually crowded him out. It would be almost the last moment of danger for the Rocks in first half.
In the seventh minute, indecisive defending by Hendon gave an opening to Petrit Elbi. His effort was blocked by Michael Peacock, but the ball fell to Kris Newby in space. Newby had time to line up a shot, but he blasted the ball high over Berkley Laurencinâ€™s head and the goal.
Laurencin's handling under pressure from Newby, Elbi and Kyle Ruel was outstanding and he dealt with a succession of crosses immaculately. His confidence and self-assuredness has grown enormously at the start of the season.
Peacock blotted his copybook after 28 minutes when a long through ball was carried on by the wind and the defender missed his header. Going backwards, but with Elbi at his shoulder, Peacock put out his arms to retain his balance, only for the ball the strike him on the hand.
From a distance it looked like a deliberate handball, and that was how the referee ruled it, showing Peacock a yellow card and giving East Thurrock a free-kick just out side the box. Newby's effort, however, was poor and the danger passed.
A collision between Maclaren and Dave Diedhiou resulted in the Rocks taking the lead in the 32nd minute. The ball bounced away from the Hendon men and fell nicely for Ruel. He set off on a run, past the out-of-position Maclaren and Diedhiou, towards the penalty area. Peacock pulled out of a challenge, aware that a foul would probably see his evening ended by a red card, and Fraser slipped as he went towards Ruel, so the striker ran on and fired the ball past Laurencin.
Diedhiou was then a little fortunate to escape a yellow card for kicking the ball away. A lecture from the referee and skipper Scott Cousins did the trick and Diedhiou did not offend again. The referee also kept his card in his pocket when, after 42 minutes, Newby fired the ball away after a decision went against East Thurrock.
What was turning into a bad night got worse after 38 minutes, when Rankin limped off with an injury and Ngoyi was forced into action. He quickly made things difficult for the visiting defence and, on the stroke of half-time, after linking with Carl McCluksey, his cross was met by Jamie Busby, whose spectacular overhead scissors-kick volley narrow flew over the angle of post and crossbar. Busby had earlier overhit a dipping volley from 25 yards.
Moments earlier, Reiss Gilbey went around James Archer too easily and had the choice of a shot or a pass to Elbi; he took the latter option. As Elbi attempted to take theball around Laurencin the goalkeeper stuck out a hand and dragged the ball away from the striker. If the Rocks had taken a two-goal, Hendon's chances of remaining unbeaten would, almost certainly, have been over.
Instead, Hendon came out for the second half showing much more purpose. The Greens forced East Thurrock back into their own half and won a couple of free-kicks. And it was from one of those set-pieces after 51 minutes, that Hendon drew level.
Elliott Godfrey curled the ball into the danger area. Richard Wray came off his goalline, but didn't call loudly for the ball, forcing Ben Wood to make a decision to clear the ball. He failed miserably, slicing the ball over his goalkeeper's head.
Simon Peddie was covering on the goalline and would probably have prevented a goal, but he couldn't prevent Ngoyi from diving in and launching a header inches below the crossbar to level matters. The goalkeeper and defender looked at each other in dismay, Wray admitting liability for the goal.
For the next ten minutes, Hendon were in complete control and they very nearly took the lead after 61 minutes. Brilliant work by Ngoyi and a well-timed run from Busby took the midfielder past the last defender on the wide left edge of the penalty area.
Busby cut inside and, from a still absurdly acute angle, fired a rasping, rising drive past the startled Wray. Unfortunately for Busby, the ball crashed off the underside of the crossbar and bounced down - and even more unfortunately for McCluskey - the rebound favoured Peddie, who lifted the ball over his own bar to clear the danger. Had the ball bounced almost anywhere else in the six-yard box, McCluskey would have had a simple tap-in to give Hendon the lead.
Wray atoned for his earlier error with a fine sprawling save to deny Godfrey after 71 minutes. The Canadian's first-time shot from 25 yards was arrowing inside the goalkeeper's far post, but Wray did well to hold onto the ball, because both Ngoyi and McCluskey were sniffing an opportunity on the rebound.
Atkins replaced Maclaren a couple of minutes later and his searing pace and enthusiasm certainly unsettled the East Thurrock rearguard. Two crosses needed little more than a touch from the onrushing Ngoyi and McCluskey but the ball, on both occasions, had just too much zip for the Hendon men.
Gradually, East Thurrock weathered the storm and they enjoyed much more possession and territory in the final ten or so minutes. Hendon's defence, however, stiffened up and with Laurencin in fine form, they didn't really create any good openings. Jake Cass replaced Elbi in stoppage time, but this was a time-wasting move and it nearly didn't work.
With the last move of the match, Ngoyi met another low Atkins cross from the Hendon right wing, but he didnâ€™t get enough power on his flicked header and the instead of ending up inside the far post, the ball trundled harmless out of play for a goal kick.
"I am not going to use the injured list as an excuse for the performance tonight," said Hendon manager Gary McCann, "because the players we put out weren't that different from the teams that have got us to our current position.
"However, we did look very leggy and tired. We didnâ€™t defend very well, with only Scott Cousins putting in a good performance. That said we had the chances in the second half to win the game. Jamie Busby was so unlucky with his shot and it came after some great approach play."