Hendon were distinctly unlucky not to come away from Clarence Park with a second win in 10 days when they drew 1-1 with St Albans City on Tuesday night. The point lifted the Greens one place up the Ryman League Premier Division table, to 14th.
It would have been an act of party-pooping if Hendon had won because Saints were playing their first League match of 2002 after being suspended by the League since 15 January. New owners took over the club a week ago and the League Management Committee lifted the suspension on Monday.
There were two changes to the Hendon line-up: Micky Woolner and Leon Woodruffe coming into the team at the expense of Paul Yates and Byron Bubb respectively. Mark Burgess was joined on the bench by his identical twin James, and Ricci Crace.
The opening 15 minutes saw St Albans trying to put on a show in front of an excpectant crowd, glad just to be watching their team again. But they found the Hendon defence - Paul Towler, Mark Cooper, Steve Butler and Simon Clarke - in its usual uncompromising mood and chances were hard to come by.
As the half progressed, Hendon gradually became more of an attacking force, but defences remained on top. A couple of free-kicks around the St Albans box threatened danger, but Richard Wilmot did not need to make a save. He was at full stretch to keep out a low strike from Woolner, the ball appearing through a ruck of players.
Hendon's two best opening fell to Woodruffe late in the half. First, a diving Rob Kean did just enough to put him off as he went for a header following a dangerous cross from Martin Randall. Then Woodruffe showed his pace by getting behind the defence, but shot wide.
It took just 4 minutes of the second half for the deadlock to be broken. St Albans again started the half more brightly and this time they made the breakthrough. Younes Nabil attacked down the left, fed the ball into Mike Bignall who slotted a diagonal pass into the path of Simon MARTIN who, looking a couple of yards offside - according to those in line with the play - slotted home to mass celebrations.
David Hook was called into action to make a fine save from Richard Evans' effort in the 56th minute. It was a vital block, because at 2-0 down it is unlikely Hendon would have been able to come back.
Eugene Ofori was again leading defenders merry dances, but his finishing let him down on a number of occasions. Wilmot also made an outstanding save to deny Woodruffe after Steve Forbes set him up. Hendon were definitely in the ascendancy but a combination of good fortune and good goalkeeping from Wilmot kept them out.
In the 69th minute, Woolner, in his first appearance of the year, was replaced by Crace and within 2 minutes, the substitute had been involved in the equaliser. Randall was the provider with a cross Crace headed on across the 6-yard box. OFORI controlled the ball on his thigh, swivelled and volleyed into the back of the net for an equisite goal.
Six minutes later, an unsavoury incident saw Saints' Jimmy Sugrue sent off by referee Mr G Horwood (Beds). Upset at being penalised for a foul on Ofori, Sugrue pushed Mr Horwood, who had no hesitation in producing a red card.
Any real hopes St Albans had of winning the game disappeared with Sugrue's dismissal, but they nearly lost it. In the 87th minute, Randall was denied a goal against hir former club, when Wilmot - against his former club - did just enough to turn a goalbound effort into the side-netting.
"It is an indication of how far we have come that we are disappointed only to have got a draw at St Albans," said manager Dave Anderson. "I think we were a little bit flat tonight, but a couple of players were not well."