Hendon's push for a place in the Ryman League playoffs slipped on Saturday afternoon as the Greens could only draw 1-1 at home to Carshalton Athletic. Fortunately, the damage was limited as both Lewes and Wealdstone - also in contention - also dropped points, although Hendon remain a point behind Cray Wanderers having now played two more games.
With Elliott Charles still unavailable following his injury last weekend, Greg Ngyoi returned to the starting lineup, while Michael Lewis and Jerome Federico were replaced by Carl McCluskey and Jamie Busby and a reshuffle at the back saw the return of James Archer in favour of Michael Peacock.
Both sides struggled to get to grips with each other early on, neither team apparently able to put together much in the way of a cohesive move early on, perhaps struggling somewhat with the firmness of the pitch. Carshalton created the first chance, a free kick wide on the right finding Ola Sogbanmu just outside the six yard box. His header was blocked back out to Paul Vines who forced Banks into a save.
Meanwhile, Gary McCann's plans took an early blow with Greg Ngoyi forced to limp off just nine minutes in, to be replaced by Belal Aite-Ouakrim just before the Greens' had their first chance. Daren Currie crossed from a deep position on the right wing and found McCluskey unmarked in the middle of the penalty area. However, stretching forward with his header, he couldn't divert the ball on target.
Despite the lack of cohesiveness in both teams build-up play, in the 17th minute Carshalton took the lead. Merrick James-Lewis crossed from the right wing, just close enough to tempt Rikki Banks out of his goal to attempt to claim the ball. The 'keeper however misjudged the flight and failed to get there, leaving Sogbanmu who had escaped his marker an open goal to aim his header into.
Going behind seemed to provide the incentive the home side needed however, as within a minute of the restart Darren Currie forced a good save from Nick Hamann who was pleased to see the offside flag against Elliott Godfrey raised as two Green shirts reached the loose ball first and looked favourites to score.
It only took another ten minutes for the Greens to get back on par with the Robins. Currie again played an excellent ball, this time into Godfrey who burst into the penalty area at an angle with James-Lewis in close attention. While the angle of Godfrey's run was taking him away from goal, James-Lewis seemed to misjudge his pace and bundled the midfielder over in the penalty area. Regular penalty taker Jamie Busby stepped up and sent Hamann the wrong way to bring the home side level.
From this point, the level of link-up play seemed to deteriorate further, with neither side managing to create a significant chance, although Hamann was fortunate to avoid an embarrassing moment. Under no apparent pressure, the 'keeper looked to clear a ball that was coming towards him. However, he seemed to misjudge it's trajectory and managed to scuff it backwards towards his own goal, fortunately taking off enough of the pace to be able to recover in time to save his blushes as Aite-Ouakrim chased the ball down.
The Greens' start to the second half promised a more engaging 45 minutes, with the home side starting to win the midfield battle and bringing the forwards more into play. However, things took another turn for the worse in the 53rd minute. Kevin Maclaren received the ball and shielded it as he took it under control. However, Paul Vines was closing in quickly and as he reached the midfielder ended up unceremoniously in a heap on the ground.
The referee ruled that Maclaren had swung an elbow and showed no hesitation in pulling out his red card, although Maclaren was adamant that the contact was with his forearm and he was merely holding it up for balance with any contact being incidental rather than deliberate.
Nonetheless, the dismissal left a hole in the home midfield that Billy Crook began to exploit, the diminutive midfielder prompting most of Carshalton's play for the remainder of the game, albeit with good chances still at a premium. He had the first serious effort at goal, although could only find Banks' midrift.
With quarter of an hour left on the clock a corner was played into Banks' six yard box and scrambled towards goal by Kennedy Adjei, although the excellent Ryan Wharton - again excellent along with his centre-half partner James Parker - was well positioned and thumped the ball away towards halfway.
Just a minute later, Crook had two more attempts on goal, first forcing Banks down to his left then producing a horrible looking slice that crossed the byline closer to the corner flag than goal.
By this point, Hendon had made two further changes, Isiah Rankin and Jerome Federico replacing Busby and Aite-Ouakrim, unusually leaving the ten men side with a full compliment of wingers and forwards on the pitch. The changes nearly brought about a winner in the 90th minute as a rare spell of good build-up play saw McCluskey in the penalty area with only the goalkeeper to beat, but without the composure to beat him - the ball ended up travelling over not only Hamann, but also goal and stand.
Carshalton for their part nearly put their own full stop on proceedings a minute into stoppage time - a ball deep into the box saw Sosbanmu rise and head towards Banks goal only to see the on-loan keeper rise and tip the ball over the bar, equal to this effort.
In truth though, neither side deserved the win and a late goal would have put an unfair gloss on the game. Hendon underperformed by recent standards, while Carshalton were similarly lacking in their build-up play and even with the extra man in the second half rarely threatened Banks unduly.
"I was displeased with today's performance," noted Gary McCann after the match. "I really thought we would go on to win, even after the loss of Kevin, but certain individuals underperformed today."
"Certain things aren't going for us at the moment, in particular the loss of key players through the spine of my team, and the pitch isn't conducive to our normal game at the moment but we need to thrive under the pressure and pose more questions in the final third. Three points on Tuesday night is vital."