Hendon's match against league leaders Billericay Town was one of those strange contests where the Greens can on the one hand feel aggrieved to have not come away with a point, but on the other be relieved that they did not leave on the wrong end of a hiding, such was the domination exerted by Town throughout most of the match.
The first noteworthy feature of the game was that it took place in the first place, and for that huge respect and gratitude is extended to the Billericay officials and supporters who worked extremely hard to clear the pitch of snow. While the perimeter of the playing surface would have made a passing ptarmigan or ibex feel very much at home, the pitch itself was totally devoid of any indication of the recent inclement weather conditions aside from a little standing water on either flank. The fact that the game went ahead is great testament to the spirit of the host club.
Playing with the deceptively strong wind in the first half, Billericay virtually set up camp in the Hendon half for the first 45 minutes, peppering the Hendon area with frequent corners and crosses. Hendon occasionally ventured towards the 'Ricay goal with some periodic passages of neat, passing football, but for the bulk of the half, Hendon's main contribution was a succession of hoofed kicks into the swirling wind. The officials made themselves known in the first period through a couple of odd decisions: a blatant corner for the home side was deemed a goal kick for the visitors, while a theatrical tumble in the Hendon box from impressive Billericay threat Harrison Chatting should have either been a penalty or a yellow card for simulation. The referee took the well-trodden path of least resistance and produced neither.
Miraculously, the first half ended goalless and the disappointingly few Hendon supporters in attendance at New Lodge were left to thank some staunch defending and shot-stopping from Laurencin for the stalemate at the halfway point.
Hendon were understandably more buoyant playing with the wind in the second half and made a much livelier start to the second half, immediately pressurising the Billericay goal with a series of probing crosses. The game really sprang into life with Billericay taking a deserved lead in the 65th minute, when some valiant Billericay tackling enabled them to loft in a cross from the right hand side to the far post, where the diminutive Chatting was left to nod home a header.
A couple of Hendon substitutions followed, with McCluskey replacing Casey McLaren and Isaiah Rankin replacing Michael Lewis. The influx of fresher legs saw Hendon embark on a decent spell of pressure, with the momentum undone in the 83rd minute when Chatting doubled his, and Billericay's, tally, after tucking the ball into the far corner after being played into the area. Hendon almost pegged one back immediately, after Rankinâ€™s smart turn and shot cannoned off the upright, and Rankin did finally halve the deficit after the less than convincing Billericay keeper was tackled by him on the edge of the box after the ball held up in some surface water. Rankin rounded the keeper to tuck the ball away.
With the scent of an improbable point in their noses, Hendon were intent on resuming their attacking pressure, so reacted in a heated fashion when a Billericay player was reluctant to return the ball for a free-kick. The resulting melee, which involved both benches and most of both teams, amazingly saw only two players cautioned after an interminable consultation between the officials. Several reds could easily have been flourished by a more punitive referee. The final whistle finally blew, leaving Billericay on track for a deserved promotion and Hendon regretting dropped points as they seek to extend their interests in the play-off places.