Hendon and Wimborne Town produced a superb second half of entertainment as they shared the points at Koolpak Stadium. The Magpies trailed twice but, crucially, were pegged back by a determined Greens team which had to overcome the long journey, a quirky pitch, heavy playing surface and strong, cold wind blowing up the slope before returning home with the well-deserved draw.
Lee Chappell was absent, but this allowed Romario Jonas to return after his one-match suspension. Matty Harriott was given the captain's armband and he teamed up well with Sergio Manesio and Ryan Hope in the heart of the Hendon midfield. On the bench, Gianni Crichlow came in for Connor Calcutt.
The game almost had a dramatic start when, in the second minute, Toby Holmes hit the top of the Hendon crossbar with a 20-yard drive. Even with the wind pulling the ball down, it never really looked like dropping enough to open the scoring.
In the 15th minute, Luke Burbridge went even closer with a powerful drive. His shot, on the angle, beat Danny Boness but struck the inside of the post, rolled across the front of the goal and the slope took the ball out for a goal kick.
Hendon took the lead in the 23rd minute. Good approach play down the left side between Charlie Smith and Hope resulted in the latter finding himself in space. HOPE's shot was not the cleanest he has ever struck, but Gerard Benfield made a complete hash of the save and the ball squirmed just inside the goalkeeper'
s near post.
The lead lasted barely three minutes as the wind claimed the first of its three goal assists. A ball into the penalty area would normally have been easy for Boness to deal with, but it fell towards Toby Holmes and the goalkeeper had to stretch to get even a weak fist on the ball.
Holmes, having been beaten to the ball had injury added to the insult as Boness's follow-through flattened him. Some Wimborne players screamed for a penalty, and almost everyone looked towards the referee, but not BURBRIDGE, who curled the ball into the unguarded net.
The goal was given and, after a very brief consultation with his assistant, the referee was satisfied that the ball had been won by Boness and the injury to Holmes was unintentional. The Wimborne player complained loudly to the referee as he was walking off the pitch after receiving treatment and was told to be quiet or he would be cautioned.
Burbridge was proving a real thorn in the Hendon side, and he nearly set up Luke Holmes for a second Wimborne goal. His shot beat Boness but went inches wide of the far post.
Just before half-time, Hendon won their first corner. The ball was curled into the penalty area but before anyone could reach it, the referee blew his whistle and pointed to the penalty spot.
He had spotted Sam Davidson manhandling Toomey, forcing him to the ground. Davidson was cautioned and Shaquille HIPPOLYTE-PATRICK smashed the spot-kick into the net, Benfield getting only the faintest of touches.
In first half stoppage time, Burbridge almost equalised, but Boness produced an excellent save and, at the other end, Darren Locke's looping header was tipped over the bar by Benfield . Before the second half started, Wimborne replaced Luke Holmes - injured in the first half - with Curtis Young.
The wind was, if anything, even more difficult in the second half, and Wimborne used the breeze slightly better than Hendon, but they too were guilty of often over-hitting through balls. However, the breeze contributed mightily to the Magpies' second goal, after 53 minutes.
What seemed an innocuous header forward looped over Locke and bounced perfectly for Toby Holmes. Jonas was a step too far away to intervene and, as Boness came off his line, HOLMES lobbed the ball into the net.
Boness then produced an excellent save to keep out a rasping drive from Billy Maybury. After the corner came to nothing, Maybury was cautioned for an injudicious comment to the referee.
Hendon made their first change, sending on Ogo Obi in place of Toomey, who had ploughed a mainly lonely furrow up front with little success.
In the 64st minute, Wimborne took the lead for the first time. There were two Hendon defensive breakdowns as a throw-in went to an unmarked Burbridge and his first-time flicked cross into the six-yard box picked out an equally open Toby HOLMES, who headed home from six yards out.
Just as Hendon's first lead had lasted less than three minutes, so did Wimborne's. Hippolyte-Patrick attacked down the right flank and a defender came across to deal with the danger.
The referee was happy the defender had got to the ball, but the better-placed assistant immediately flagged for a free-kick because the only contact had been on the player. The free-kick was curled into the danger area, held up significantly by the wind, and as Benfield came flying out of his goal, LOCKE got to the ball first and guided it into the net with stooping header.
The centre-half was lucky that the goalkeeper's reckless swinging foot didn't catch him, as the sanction on Benfield would almost certainly have been a dismissal.
With just over 20 minutes remaining, Hendon had a great chance to regain the lead. A clever through ball from Harriott went between two defenders and left Obi with a one-on-one with Benfield.
Obi lifted the ball over the goalkeeper, but the ball came down off the underside of the crossbar. Maybury's attempted clearance went almost straight back to Obi, but this time, Benfield was able to spread himself well to make a good save
Corners were proving particularly troubling for Benfield - who admitted in a post-match tweet that this had been his worst performance for the Magpies - and he was lucky to escape when he flapped at the ball. It came straight to Locke, whose header was cleared off the line by Stefan Penny, doing his job guarding the post.
Chances continued to come at both ends. Boness made an excellent full-length save to deny Burbridge after 72 minutes and, six minutes later, Benfield did even better to deny Hope as his rasping drive seemed booked for the top corner.
Things got a bit awkward for Hendon as both Jacob Gardiner-Smith and Locke suffered injuries. The former was able to continue, but Locke was not so lucky. He went off for the final 10 minutes, with Howard Hall replacing him and the Greens going a third different defensive formation.
Crichlow replaced Hippolyte-Patrick for the final two minutes, plus four additional ones of added time. These were nervy times for both defences, but the back lines were very brave in making blocks of shots.
It summed up the attitude of the two very well matched teams who gave their all in extraordinarily difficult conditions.