Hendon continued their solid start to their Ryman League campaign with a thoroughly deserved point away at East Thurrock, a visit that in recent years, has been something of a graveyard both in terms of points earned and performances.
Indeed, in the final reckoning, the Greens will be disappointed not to have come away from a smart and well maintained Rookery Hill with the full quota of points, but were left to rue a lack of killer instinct in front of goal once again.
Gary McCann named an unchanged sixteen from that which took all three points from the 'other' Rocks of Bognor on Monday evening and quickly settled into their stride following a minor 1st minute scare when Sam Letchmere rose highest ten yards out but was unable to keep his header low enough to test George Legg.
The remainder of the opening quarter of an hour saw Hendon trying to get a foothold in the game and keep the home team's lively front duo of Manny Osei and Lewis Smith at bay. However, on the quarter hour mark, Chris Seeby burst past a couple of challenges into the box, his powerful cross-shot was blocked by the unfortunate Aaron Morgan who simply did not have time to either evade the ball, nor adjust his body to turn it home.
Five minutes later, Nicky Symons' name was the first of six taken by the referee following three fouls in quick succession, but Hendon were unable to make the chance count and the free-kick was cleared by the Rocks' back four.
The clearest sight of either goal in the opening half hour came when Elliott Brathwaite was stretching to clear a long ball forward, and was able only to divert the ball into the path of the grateful Osei. Casey Maclaren set off in pursuit of the pacy number 9 and put him under enough duress to ensure that the end strike lacked both power and direction, leaving Legg to make a simple save.
This let-off provided the catalyst for the Greens' best spell of the first half. Aaron Morgan and Andre Da Costa switched flanks, and the latter began to find some joy against Connor Witherspoon having been well marshalled by the impressively solid Tom Stephen.
On 32 minutes, the Greens forced a corner, which Oliver Sprague swung in under the crossbar. It eluded a whole host of differently bedecked players, including the Thurrock custodian David Hughes who was left flapping at thin air, and proceeded to bounce just inside the far post where only the presence of Letchmere's head, at full stretch, prevented Sprague from opening his Hendon account. Had there been no defender manning the far post, Hendon would have been ahead.
They had to wait just three minutes for the deadlock to be broken however. Da Costa received an adroitly judged pass from Kevin Maclaren and ran at Witherspoon. Forced to cross the ball with his weaker left foot, he did well to stand the ball up towards the far post. Hughes, once again, was beaten by the flight of the ball, and was relieved to see it strike the base of the far post. However, as he scrambled down to pounce on the rebound, Kezie Ibe stole in and slotted the ball home for the simplest of his three goals so far.
Hendon's control on the closing stages of the half increased, Ibe had a snapshot from just inside the penalty area well smothered by Hughes, but a couple of minutes before the whistle, the Greens failed to clear a ball into the box from the left wing. It fell at the feet of Simon Peddie, but he was unable to keep his toe poke down and the ball sailed harmlessly over the crossbar.
The Greens began the second period as they had ended the first, well on top and could have taken the lead within seconds of the restart as the ball rebounded for a second time off of the frame of the East Thurrock goal. A minute later and Manny Osei was forced to limp off after being caught on what looked like the achilles in a challenge with Elliott Brathwaite. The Hendon centre half certainly won the ball and there was no malice in the challenge, however Osei's discomfort was clear for all to see. He was replaced by Javlon Campbell.
Whilst the hosts set about adjusting to the change, Hendon pressed for the second goal. Firstly a free kick into the box was punched uncomfortably under pressure by Hughes and the ball fell kindly to Sam Murphy. A little closer to goal than when he scored against VCD the previous week, and with more players to beat, his effort was headed off the line by a well placed home defender. Moments later, and a flowing move involving Morgan and Lee O'Leary found Ibe, but his finish was poor and Hughes was able to save comfortably.
The Greens' failure to put the game to bed was exposed twenty minutes into the second half. Lewis Smith, whose tendency to pick the ball up in deep positions and run at the Hendon defence caused problems throughout the second half, got beyond Chris Seeby and Casey Maclaren with skill and close control down the left flank and poked the ball past Legg. In a carbon copy of Hendon's goal, the ball rebounded off the post, and although Olly Sprague did superbly to block the first rebound, he was unable to do anything as Letchmere gleefully slammed the ball home for the equaliser.
Letchmere was close to adding a second goal a couple of moments later when he curled an excellent free kick a couple of feet over the crossbar, whilst at the other end, Casey Maclaren's header from a dead ball was hacked off the East Thurrock goal-line. In the same attack, Murphy sent his own beautiful 25 yard curler towards goal and was even closer than Letchmere, his effort meeting the top of the crossbar on its way over the angle.
The hosts continued to threaten, prompted by the impressive Smith, but Legg remained relatively untroubled. However, the Greens had two further gilt-edged chances to take maximum points. With five minutes remaining, Tony Taggart's cross was met at the near post by Ibe whose glanced header flew agonisingly past the far post.
Finally, with the game entering time added on, Lee O'Leary's mishit shot from Leon Smith's pass was diverted goalwards by Casey Maclaren. Somehow Hughes, who was heading in the wrong direction managed to react in an instant, change direction and make a wonderful smothering low save to preserve a point for the hosts.