Hendon will have left Grosvenor Vale fundamentally disappointed with a solitary point after a blistering second half display against title favourites Wealdstone. While a point against Wealdstone is ostensibly a good result for the Greens, the plucky squad and management team undoubtedly deserved two more.
Manager Gary McCann acknowledged: "Delighted and disappointed is a good way to describe it. I am delighted with the one point earned by the performance, but very disappointed that it wasnâ€™t the three the team thoroughly deserved. Anyone at the game will tell you we were the better, more purposeful and cohesive team. The fact that their goalkeeper Jonathan North was man of the match shows how much we were on top. I have watched a lot of Wealdstone games this season and I havenâ€™t seen anyone open up their defence the way we did."
Much of this penetration occurred in a domineering second half display, during which Hendon repeatedly tore apart the home side down the flanks, with Taggart, Seeby and Bryan the main tormentors. The first half was an altogether more cagey affair, with both sides carving out a handful of chances and half chances apiece. The match, which took place against a backdrop of pleasant Spring sunshine and a bumper crowd approaching 700, saw Hendon take the early initiative, with a series of attacks testing the Wealdstone defence, although the back four and keeper North were able to repel all of the offensives. Smith, Thomas, Bryan, Taggart and O'Leary all had reasonable chances to put Hendon in front in the first half, although a combination of inaccuracy and North meant that the teams returned to the dressing rooms level pegging.
At the other end, meanwhile, Little and Pett were the standout threats for the home side in the opening half, with a Little free kick and Pett's constant trickery proving to be the main concerns for loanee keeper McDonnell. Perhaps the most significant event of the first half was the withdrawal of Wealdstone defender Hamblin with a head injury, the defender being replaced by McCubbin. This change was pivotal, as the substitute was frequently outwitted by Bryan and Seeby down Hendon's right flank.
Indeed, it was Bryan's twisting run that left McCubbin on his backside, Bryan then dinking a delightful cross into the box. The ball found Taggart, who was able to power the ball past North in the 63rd minute, sending a disappointingly meagre away support of around 35 into raptures. Taggart spent much of the afternoon battering the Wealdstone defence like a bad-tempered ibex, so his well-taken goal was a just reward for his endeavours.
Hendon had chances to extend their lead, with North the hero for the Stones on several occasions, but the goal seemed to enliven both a strangely soporific Wealdstone side and an oddly muted home crowd. As full time loomed in the final ten minutes, Wealdstone perked up and began to pressure Hendon with a bit more purpose and talent than they had mustered in the previous 80 minutes. Wealdstone's recovery was completed when some pressure on the right of the Hendon box saw the ball fall to Wealdstone's Wright. His shot trickled into the corner of the Hendon net, bringing the home side level, ultimately giving Wealdstone a point that might well contribute to their promotion.
The game, despite the quiet support from both sides, still exhibited a degree of derby-day passion, occasionally threatening to boil over with a couple of bookings and a few confrontations between the teams. Indeed, McCubbin might well count himself lucky to have stayed on the pitch after letting frustration get the better of him before unleashing what might be charitably described as a robust challenge. The referee - who it must be said marshalled the game very well - contented himself with a yellow for the Stones substitute.
Both teams played some decent football on a quirky pitch, with some marshy areas seeing the ball splat to a standstill rather than bounce, although it will be Hendon that will look back on the game with the greatest degree of regret for two points lost.