Hendon were not unduly troubled by hosts AFC Hayes as they strolled into the second qualifying round of the FA Cup. The Greens' reward for the 3-0 victory at Park Farm is a tie at Oxhey Jets, who play in the Molten Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division.
Despite the raft of injuries, or maybe because of it, Hendon named the most experienced bench - in terms of club appearances - in the Greens' history. Between them the six outfield substitutes, James Burgess (322), James Parker (259), Craig Carby (174), Junior Lewis (146), Kevin Maclaren (127) and Danny Dyer (120) had made 1,148 first-team appearances. In the starting line-up, Byron Bubb made the first start of his third spell at the club, while Greg Ngoyi came in for the injured Isaiah Rankin.
Confidence comes from a good start to the season and the last thing AFC Hayes would have wanted was to concede an early goal. But that is exactly what they did, and it might have been significantly worse if the referee had been harsher in his third minute sanction.
A through ball should have been dealt with by Dominic Rhone, but he let the ball bounce of his shin and Ngoyi latched onto it. Control on the grassy pitch was not easy, but Ngoyi got in front of Rhone and attempted to take the ball around Simon Grant, coming quickly of his line.
The goalkeeper and defender both stretched to reach the ball, but Ngoyi nicked it away from them and then was caught lightly by Grant. Ngoyi went down and the referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty. As well as the spot-kick, the referee might well have ruled that Grant had denied Ngoyi an obvious goalscoring opportunity and shown him a red card, but he kept both cards in his pocket.
As Jamie Busby lined up the ball, Grant shouted at him in attempt to put him off. It was most unsporting and Busby responded by putting the ball in the bottom of the net, with Grant's dive going towards the opposite corner.
In the 13th minute, Hendon nearly doubled their advantage. The home defence did not deal with a corner from Busby and Grant's weak punch went only as far as Elliott Godfrey, who returned the ball with interest.
Although the ball travelled only a few yards, it was clear that Grant was not going to reach it. The outstretched leg of Charles Defty, however, did the job just as well and his block ensured the score stayed at 1-0, at least for a couple of minutes.
With 16 minutes on the clock, Hendon attacked with Carl McCluskey and Godfrey down the right wing. McCluskey's perfectly timed and weighted pass allowed Godfrey to get behind the cumbersome Chris Owens and run into the penalty area close to the goalline.
Ngoyi was the only Hendon player in the penalty area but the pass from Godfrey was slide-rule accurate. It only needed the gentlest of guidance from Ngoyi's right heel to divert the ball just inside the far post. It was a beautifully worked goal, finished gracefully and clinically.
AFC Hayes had no response. Berkley Laurencin was immaculate in his handling and kicking, while James Archer, Scott Cousins, Bradley Fraser and Michael Peacock were very comfortable in repelling almost everything Daniel Vincent, Matthew Woods, Michael Buckley and Dean Papali (a former Hendon triallist) threw at them.
Dave Diedhiou snuffed out a few hopeful balls forward, allowing Busby, Bubb, McCluskey and Godfrey to support Ngoyi in his lone striker's role. The game certainly didn't sparkle as Hendon efficiently stifled everything AFC Hayes tried and were content to look for attacks on the counter.
And the Greens 0 resplendent in their new yellow change kit - almost made it 3-0 on the stroke of half-time. A good pass by Godfrey sent McCluskey into space behind the AFC Hayes defence and he had only Grant to beat. The goalkeeper was very quick off his line and was threw himself in front of McCluskey, blocking the attempted lob with his legs.
Before the second half started, Hendon made a tactical change, bringing on Parker for his first start of the season at the expense of Archer. He slotted in as though he had never been away, but he was certainly much busier than the man he had replaced.
This is because Hendon were content to let AFC Hayes have all the possession they wanted and ceded all territory more than 25 yards from their goal. Busby, Bubb, McCluskey and Godfrey were all given more defensive roles, leaving Ngoyi alone up front.
Hendon were confident that they could up the tempo and score again if the situation demanded, but the defence was so dominant, that the likelihood was low. All in all, it meant that there was very little goalmouth action at either end.
From a very rare opening for AFC Hayes, Rhone's bad day got worse in the 52nd minute when he managed not to make proper contact with a free header from six yards. Almost any goalward effort would have brought him a goal. Instead, the ball went a few yards wide of the target.
Kevin Maclaren replaced Ngoyi with 20 minutes remaining, leaving Hendon with no recognised striker on the pitch, while AFC Hayes made trio of changes with 15 minutes to go, sending on Trevor Charlery, Kevin Chakaodza (another Hendon triallist) and Denis Maharjan.
And it was Maharjan who finally forced Laurencin into action, firing a 25-yard drive which the goalkeeper saved magnificently, spectacularly arching his back as he tipped the ball over the crossbar.
This woke up Hendon and, two minutes later, in the 80th minute, Bubb came desperately close to sealing the victory with a shot following good approach work from Parker. The ball cannoned off the inside of the post and Defty was able to clear the danger before McCluskey could reach the rebound.
This seemed to confirm AFC Hayes's fears about the potency of the Hendon counter-attack, because the lack of urgency in the first 35 minutes of the second half continued. Dyer replaced Bubb for the last 10 or so minutes, playing effectively as a striker.
As the game moved into stoppage time, Hendon launched another attack. Busby made one of his trademark late runs into the penalty area and when McCluskey passed to him, Owens stuck out a leg to bring him down.
Once again, the referee could have shown a red card for the professional foul, but he did produce the only yellow of the afternoon. Busby picked himself up, pulled rank on his skipper Cousins and regular dead-ball expert Godfrey and rifled the ball past the wall and a motionless Grant, who looked up to watch the ball fly into the roof of the net.
"We contained them really well," said happy Hendon manager Gary McCann. "In the second half, especially, it wasn't very pretty, but it was efficient and effective. I thought we did very well in the first half.
"The important thing was to win the game and we did that very comfortably."