Hendon's interest in the Middlesex Senior Cup was short and sweet, beginning and ending with Tuesday night's trip to Staines Town. The final score, 5-2, suggests that the Greens were given a bit of a pasting, but this was anything but the case and if wasn't for an exceptional performance from Swans goalkeeper Jack Turner, the result may well have been different and Hendon might have had another Conference South scalp.
The Greens were at far from full strength, with Brendan Hazlett, Max McCann, Adam Wallace, Aaron Morgan and Andre Da Costa replacing Ben McNamara, Chris Seeby, James Fisher, Leon Smith and Kezie Ibe. The personnel changes also led to a system change with a few players appearing far from familiar positions.
Staines, who are currently bottom of the Vanarama Conference South division and hadn't won since September, were at, or near to, full-strength and included debutant Romone Rose, replacing the recently departed Louie Theophanous. Playing at the heart of their defence was Jerel Ifil, who began his career at Hendon in 1998 before joining Watford and enjoying more than a decade playing in the Football League and Scottish Premier League.
It took 18 minutes for the breakthrough to come and it was Elliott Buchanan who got it. He tried his luck from 20 yards and his shot beat Hazlett.
Two minutes later, Hendon were level. Dave Diedhiou rose high and powered a header past Turner.
Ashley Lodge fired a shot just wide of the Hendon goal before the Greens responded with a fine attack, thwarted by an even better save from Turner. It was a key moment because when the ball went to the other end Max Worsfold set up Rose for a debut goal.
Hendon continued to give as good as they got and both Hazlett and Turner then made good saves, the former from an angled drive by Buchanan. The Greens then wasted two chances when Dean headed over from a good position and Kevin Maclaren was unable to repeat his strike from Saturday, this time firing wide of the goal.
In the second half, Hendon continued to ask questions of the Staines defence and most were answered by Turner. The Swans continued to play their part and skipper Max Worsfold had a field day against Sam Murphy, who tried manfully to quell the danger in a position alien to him.
Nonetheless it was Hendon who opened the scoring in the second half, Dean getting his first goal since returning to the club. The lead lasted barely two minutes as the defence again switched off and Chris M'Boungou headed home.
Turner then produced probably his best save of the night, and, just as in the first half, instead of Hendon scoring it was Staines who found the target next. Worsfold was again the creator, and this time a deft back-heel from Danny Bassett beat Hazlett. Hendon will say their defending for the goal was sloppy; Staines will say that it was a brilliantly worked goal; both are probably fairly close to the mark.
Lee O'Leary and Ibe replaced Dean and Morgan respectively and both players had chances to get Hendon back into the game, as did Wallace, but they could not find a way past Turner. Wallace, who has had only a few minutes of first team action this season was withdrawn with 13 minutes to go, Smith taking over from him.
The final nail in the Hendon coffin came in the last minute. Staines had a set-piece which Hendon defended short-handed, leaving three men up front in the hope of launching a quick counter-attack. The ball was well delivered and Luke Neville headed home, though the defending was again not as tight as it might have been.