Hendon defeated playoff rivals Hornchurch with a hard-earned victory ground out from a fairly cagey encounter. The visitors had the bulk of the early pressure, with Tambeson Eyong threatening down the right thanks to his pace and strength and Fola Orilonishe proving equally problematic on the left.
The balance of play was looking ominous for the home side, with Hendon not mustering an attempt on goal until the 26th minute when Casey Maclaren blasted over. To be fair, Rikki Banks was not unduly troubled in the Hendon goal either, although Hornchurch were aggrieved on a couple of occasions when they felt they were on the wrong end of some tight offside decisions.
Hendon gathered some momentum after Maclaren skied the ball over the bar, with the home side unlucky not to take the lead just before the break: Carl McCluskeyâ€™s header being wonderfully tipped over with an acrobatic fingertip save by Urchins keeper Joe Woolley.
Buoyed by this period of pressure, the home side gained the advantage on the stroke of half-time when Maclaren lofted in a cross from the right after Hornchurch failed to clear their lines from a corner. Wooley failed to deal with it and Elliot Charles was on hand to bundle home with his chest. It was by no means a beautiful goal, but they all count and the two sides headed to the changing rooms with a finely-poised game separated by just the single goal.
The first notable incident saw Maclaren, an industrious presence throughout the match, pick up a yellow card for a petulant trip just seconds after completing one of his trademark crunching tackles. A hardworking Hornchurch side had a number of opportunities to cancel out Hendonâ€™s lead as the second half progressed, with Fola Orilonisheâ€™s overhead kick being well smothered by Banks and a header looping over the bar shortly afterwards.
Hornchurch's James Love embarked on a mazy run that made a mockery of the Hendon defenceâ€™s attempts to halt his progress, although - like many of the visitors' endeavours - the move ultimately fizzled out without much to show for it.
The small band of Hornchurch supporters will have been cheered by the introduction of sub Lewis Smith: he brought fresh legs and fresh ideas for the visitors, providing the Urchins with extra creativity and options as they surged forward looking to equalize. Indeed, they nearly grabbed an equalizer as the gamed edged towards full-time, fellow sub Tommy Black striking the outside of the post.
Despite the best efforts of the plucky Essex side, Hendon added insult to injury in added time with a second goal. A Hendon clearance was smashed up the field by McCluskey, finding the prolific Isaiah Rankin. With a sublime piece of skill he navigated his way through the last line of the Hornchurch defence, bounding his way down the pitch like an oryx. Despite the keeper managing to get a hand to the ball, he smashed it into the back of the net, sealing what might be a vital win for Hendon as they seek to keep alive their interests in a possible play-off place.