Hendon recorded their first victory at New Lodge against Billericay since 1986 with a truly remarkable 6-4 win on Saturday. The Greens, after taking an early lead, twice came from behind in the second half to seal a memorable win.
Last year, on the corresponding weekend, Hendon lost out to Heybridge Swifts in the Full Members Cup by the odd goal in 11, after extra time, so there is clearly plenty of Christmas generosity on show even a few days after the event. It was only the second win for Hendon in League action in Essex since October 1995, a run of 27 games.
With Paul Towler still on indefinite leave of absence because of a family illness, Steve Butler continued alongside Mark Cooper at the back. In attack Ross Pickett was confined to bed with flu, so Martin Randall made his first start, partenered by fellow new boy Leon Woodruffe. Steve Forbes, an early loss against Aldershot was able to start, although it looked as if he was really struggling in the early going.
Hendon got off to the perfect start in the 4th minute. Martin Carthy sliced a clearance out for a corner. Byron Bubb bobbled the kick, but got it back from a defender and made a better attempt second time around. Woodruffe dived in to head the ball but did not get great contact. The ball was not travelling fast and was missing the far post before goalkeeper Gavin King intervened. His flashy dive resulted in him palming the ball up, right into the path of COOPER, who swept it into the net from 6 yards.
If that had been poor defending from the home side, Hendon were quick to show they could do it at least as badly. A stupidly conceded free-kick close to the corner flag in the 8th minute, resulted in a low cross from Joe Baker which Simon CLARKE deflected into his own net under pressure from Lee Williams.
Fifteen minutes later, Billericay took the lead when Steve Darlington was given too much time and space for a shot. David Hook pulled off a fine save, but Micky WOOLNER was slow to react to the rebound and he succeeded in turning Kelechi Opara's shot into the net for own goal number 2.
In the 34th minute, King was apparently unconcerned by a 30-yard drive from Bubb, but either his judgement was spot-on or, more likely, he got lucky because the ball hit the outside of the side netting, having missed the post by inches.
The half-time whistle came at the right time for Hendon, who had lost Woodruffe moments before the break - replaced by Dale Binns - because Billericay were on top and Baker was leading the defence a merry dance. During the interval, Dons manager Dave Anderson made a tactical switch, putting Woolner in a man-marking role on Baker. It proved an inspired switch, and not just because Baker ceased to be a threat.
The equaliser arrived just 2 minutes into the second half. Some fine interplay resulted in Bubb getting the ball on the edge of the penalty area. His slide-rule pass into the path of Forbes was perfect. King came off his line, but not quickly enough and FORBES slid the ball under him.
Four minutes later, Hendon regained the lead with a superb goal, both in creation and completion. Paul Yates, Jon-Barrie Bates, Forbes and Bubb were all involved in a passing move before Forbes wrong-footed the Billericay defence with a reverse pass into the path of WOOLNER. His 30-yard drive was touched by King, but the 'keeper never had a hope of keeping the ball out of the net.
At 3-2 up, Hendon went back to self-destruct mode. Four minutes after taking the lead, Billericay drew level. Once again the defence had the chance to clear the danger but didn't and when the ball fell to Martin CARTHY, he despatched it into the corner.
It became 4 goals in 14 minutes when Hendon scored their 3rd own goal of the game in the 62nd minute. Carthy was the last Billericay player to touch the ball as his low cross cannoned off Hook and a couple of defenders, the last of which was COOPER, before entering the goal.
Anderson's next move was a winning one. Eugene Ofori came on for Randall in the 77th minute, effectively leaving Hendon without a out and out striker. However, both Binns and Ofori are dangerous running with the ball and their speed unsettled the Billericay defence.
In the 82nd minute, Hendon launched a quick counter-attack and when Forbes put the ball into space behind the Billericay defence, he invited Binns to show off his pace. King again came off his line, but he was always going to be second best and BINNS slid the ball under him and into the net to make it 4-4.
Hendon's loyal fans went very noisily crazy. But this was just the prelude for an incredible finale. After Mark Burgess had replaced Bates, Bubb forced an 87th minute corner, which he took himself. Maybe if a more physical presence than Binns had been pressurising King, Billericay's defence might have paid more attention to him, but when the corner was flicked on BINNS reacted quickest, jabbing the ball past King and a defender on the line.
A succession of injuries to both teams meant that there was quite of bit of stoppage time. Referee Mr L Bonaldi played over 7 minutes in all, but at least 30 seconds of that was the celebration of Hendon players following goal No. 6, 90 seconds into the added time.
Billericay had been run ragged, but surprisingly their manager Gary Calder had not used any substitutes and his tiring defenders lost their concentration. The last player to profit from this was OFORI, who struck a beautiful 25-yard chip into the top left-hand corner to seal a stunning victory.
"This was a great game for the fans, if not for the management team," said Mr Anderson. "We were run silly by Joe Baker in the first half, so I put Micky Woolner on him. That is why he was in the position he was for our 3rd goal. Full marks to the players for their commitment today."