Hendon were denied a first-ever Ryman League Premier Division victory at Cray Wanderers on Sunday afternoon by a matter of millimetres when Mauro Vilhete's drive crashed off the inside of a post, but bounced back into the field of play. As it was, the Greens had to settle for a well-deserved point that returned them to seventh in the table.
The starting 11 showed only one change from the one which had started and pushed Billericay so close a week earlier, Belal Aite-Ouakrim being replaced by Isaiah Rankin. Work experience youngster Mustafa Mirzai - from Luton Town - and Junior Lewis were named to the bench, but neither were used.
Cray had the better of the first half, but there was little to cheer at either end on the first afternoon of the season which suggested that winter was close at hand (a vast improvement on the last couple of years when snow has called off October and November fixtures). Neither the Wands nor the Greens have enjoyed the best of form recently and there was a distinct feeling that both teams were keener to avoid defeat than go all out for victory - at least in the opening exchanges.
Both teams were guilty of failing to hit the target in the first half, and whilst Andy Walker was essentially unemployed for most of the first 45 minutes, Cray really didn't threaten Berkley Laurencin's goal, despite creating a few openings. In the first couple of minutes a header from defender Mark Willy flashed over the crossbar from a corner and another defender Tyrone Sterling and midfielder Alex Bentley also failed to force a save from Laurencin.
Defensively for Hendon, Frank Sinclair and Ryan Wharton looked very solid in the middle of the defence, while James Parker and Scott Cousins limited the danger down the flanks. Going forward, the Greens didn't look very dangerous, though Mauro Vilhete and Isaiah Rankin both fired speculative efforts wide of the target from outside the penalty area.
Laurencin was called into meaningful action after 35 minutes, when he saved well from Leigh Bremner who ran onto a good through ball by Alex McLeod and had only the goalkeeper to beat.
But Hendon ended the first half on a positive note. Good hustle by Darren Currie dispossessed Sterling and he spotted Elliott Godfrey running into the box. Walker had come off his line to narrow the angle for a shot, so the low cross gave Godfrey a great chance to score, but a brilliant last-ditch intervention by McLeod.
From the resulting corner, Parker attempted an ambitious overhead kick, similar to one which grazed the post at Luton a few weeks earlier. This time, the spectacular effort was more like the expected outcome from a defender - the ball going some seven or eight yards wide of the target.
There were three worries for Hendon, two of which were cautions picked up by Dave Diedhiou and Sinclair, but neither proved a real handicap in the second half. The third was an injury to James Fisher, who limped off in first-half stoppage time to be replaced by Kevin Maclaren.
Hendon came out with a much more positive attitude in the second half and forced Cray to be more defensive. That said, Laurencin did make a good save to deny Sam Long and a comfortable one at close range from Tommy Whitnell. Those two incidents apart, Cray did flash a couple of efforts wide of the goal from good positions, but were indebted to Walker for still being in the match.
Rankin started to get the better of Willy and, playing in a wider position, Vilhete caused the Wands defence a few problems. The lack of Hendon's two first-choice strikers, Greg Ngoyi and Elliott Charles, did make things harder for the Greens, especially with the latter being able to provide an aerial threat that neither Rankin nor Vilhete could.
Vilhete has yet to break his Hendon duck, but the on-loan Barnet player came desperately close on a couple of occasions. The first came after 58 minutes, when he beat Willy to the ball, but the centre-half was able to get back and block his attempted shot after Vilhete had slowed down to steady himself.
In the 70th minute, he drilled a shot from 16 yards which beat Walker all ends up, but struck the inside of the goalkeeper's right post. If Vilhete had used just a tiny bit less power, the swerving drive would have cannoned off the upright and ended up in the net.
Two minutes later, from a corner, the ball was half-cleared and when it was returned to the six-yard box, Vilhete headed the ball towards the bottom of the far post. The athletic Walker flung himself to his right and did brilliantly to push the ball away.
And the goalkeeper came to his team's rescue again when he flung himself in front of a cross from substitute Jerome Federico (who had replaced Godfrey) and palmed away the ball just as it was about to land at Rankin's feet.
A cynical challenge by Bentley on Vilhete, deep into the two minutes of added time, saw him join Chris Saunders in the referee's notebook, levelling the caution count at 2-2. The ball was delivered into the danger area, but before Carl McCluskey - a late replacement for Rankin - could shoot, it was drilled away for a throw-in by Sterling.
There was barely time for the throw-in to reach the penalty area before the final whistle went with the honours shared.
Hendon manager Gary McCann said, "Both teams tried to play the right way today and I thought it was a good match. They were both very committed.
"We weren't composed enough in the first half, but we were much better in the second. On balance I thought we just about deserved to win the match and we were very unlucky not to score in the second half.
"I think we will be the happier to have got a point today because we were away and they are a place above us in the table. But we both needed to get a something from the game after some disappointing recent results."