Hendon's 2-0 defeat of neighbours Wealdstone at Grosvenor Vale on Monday night saw the Greens return to the top of the Ryman League Premier Division table. On so many levels this was a truly outstanding result and one which must have given manager Gary McCann extreme pride.
Not only were Hendon coming off their first loss of the season (albeit against bogey team Kingstonian), they were playing away against another team which had dominated previous League encounters (Wealdstone had recorded seven wins in the last eight matches), but then the Greens lost four players less than an hour before kick-off.
Bradley Fraser's car, carrying Dave Diedhiou and Berkley Laurencin, was struck by another vehicle and although none of the players were hurt, they were obviously shaken up and the completion of the necessary paperwork at the scene of the accident meant they did not arrive at the ground until after the team-sheets had been exchanged. In addition to this, an over-running college lecture delayed Greg Ngoyi, so he could not start.
Former Wealdstone favourite Sean Thomas was given his second Hendon debut (he spent a month on loan at the Greens in October 2005), while new striker Elliot Charles - a current Grenadine international (he played in two FIFA World Cup 2014 qualifiers earlier in September) who was recently released by Concord Rangers - was thrown in at the deep end, starting the match barely an hour after being introduced to his new team-mates. James Archer and Kevin Maclaren were the other two players drafted into the starting line-up, while Byron Bubb was relegated to the subs' bench - Casey Maclaren again getting the start - as McCann had to juggle his formation to take account of the personnel changes.
A heavy late-afternoon shower made the pitch surface slick, but it was it was true and should have allowed both teams to play plenty of football. Sadly, what transpired was not the most edifying of spectacles and to call the first half fractious is to be more than kind to both teams. The crowd of 506 had plenty to shout about, but most of their calls were to complain about the actions or inactions of players or match officials.
In the 12th minute, Thomas was forced into action, making a very smart save from Jake Parsons and, a few minutes, later Wealdstone appeals for a penalty, for handball, were waved aside.
Hendon struggled to get a foothold in the match, Charles struggling to get involved with players he had first met only an hour or so earlier.
Nonetheless, a drive from Carl McCluskey fired narrowly wide of a post to remind the home defence that Hendon offered a degree of potency when given time and space to move forward.
Frustratingly, also, Hendon were awarded a couple of free-kicks in potentially dangerous situations but wasted them with quickly taken kicks that rolled either harmlessly into touch or directly to a Wealdstone player. And when Jonathan North and Sean Cronin got in each other's way, the ball didn't sit down for Charles to take a shot and by the time he did, a defender's block allowed North to dive on the ball.
A louder penalty appeal from Wealdstone followed in the 25th minute.
Scott McCubbin appeared to be bundled over as the ball approached him, but, once again, there was no whistle from the referee.
For the multitude of incidents between the penalty areas, however, there was certainly enough whistling, often followed by a lecture, and it meant the game never had a chance to develop any flow.
Richard Jolly, back at the club where he made his reputation, but looking a rather isolated figure in Wealdstone's 4-5-1 formation, showed what he was capable of when given a chance after 28 minutes. He didn't reckon with Thomas, who produced an outstanding save to deny him.
Hendon had a penalty appeal waved aside in the 35th minute. Charles made space for a shot, which North saved, but couldn't hold. Jamie Busby ran towards the ball as North dived on it, but the Hendon player's attempt to reach it ended with a block by Cronin. Given the defender's action, which felled Busby, the Greens could certainly feel hard done by not to have received a penalty and Cronin might, on another day, have seen his evening's work done prematurely.
Just before half-time, McCluskey again tried his luck from distance and although this effort was closer to the target, North was again not called on to make a save.
Wealdstone started the second half strongly and Thomas was quickly forced into action, catching a right-wing cross under great pressure.
Most of the balls coming from wide areas, however, were dealt with superbly by Michael Peacock and James Parker, two pillars of strength at the heart of the Hendon defence.
Neither James Archer nor Scott Cousins were able to get forward, nor was much width provided by the Maclaren brothers, McCluskey, Busby or Elliot Godfrey. Nonetheless, Charles was warming to his task up front, and Alan Massey and Cronin certainly had their hands full with the striker.
After 63 minutes, Jolly again found Thomas in unbeatable mood and his save kept Hendon in the game. Wealdstone's frustration began to grow as the obdurate Hendon defence held firm and the Stones picked up a few cautions for reckless challenges, though they were not always convinced there had been much, if any, foul play involved.
With 18 minutes remaining, Ngoyi replaced Casey Maclaren, while Kurtney Brooks and Eddie Adjei took over from Chris O'Leary and Parsons for Wealdstone. And it was the second of these substitutes, who error started the move that gave Hendon the lead.
In the 79th minute, Adjei lost possession in midfield and Hendon quickly moved the ball forward. They forced a corner and went for a set move.
The shot which followed from just inside the penalty are was well saved by North, who again failed to hold onto the ball. Two yellow-shirted players tried to turn the ball goalwards but were repelled. However, when Charles intervened, no one could stop him and the deadlock was broken.
Hendon fans were still celebrating when the lead was doubled. Adjei's pass back to Cronin wasn't great, but it was far better than the subsequent attempt to funnel the ball back to North. The goalkeeper hesitated momentarily and it allowed Ngoyi to pounce, taking the ball away from the goalkeeper and sliding it, gleefully, into the net.
That ended the match as a contest and Hendon were content to see out the five minutes of stoppage time without too many alarms. Both Dave Diedhiou (for Kevin Maclaren) and Craig Carby (for Charles) were given brief run-outs, but these were time-wasting tactics as much as anything else.
"I am so pleased with the players tonight," said Mr McCann. "We were forced to make four changes at 7.00 and I made a fifth for team shape reasons, so it was far from ideal. Given everything that happened, we had to be a bit ugly tonight, but it was a great response after Saturday.
"Sean Thomas was immaculate in goal on his debut while Elliot Charles only met the team at 6.45 and proved a real handful."