Hendon produced one of their most complete performances of the season and one of them most vital in their battle against relegation. The 2-0 defeat of Poole Town at School Lane lifts the Greens seven points above the drop zone and dealt a serious blow to the Dolphins' playoff hopes.
There were a few changes to the Greens starting line-up with new goalkeeper Chris Grace coming in for the suspended Andy McCorkell, while Howard Hall and Romario Jonas made way for the returning James Hammond and Bayley Brown. With Matty Harriott also suspended Scott McGleish was named on the substitutes' bench, though he and Bilal Sayoud were not used.
This was not a game high on quality, two goal-line clearances and the Greens' two goals being notable exceptions. Jez Bedford shone in the early going for Poole but got little change out of Lee Chappell, switched wings and drew a yellow card for Hammond, who appeared to win the ball before Bedford slumped to the ground following later contact.
For all his bright approach play, however, Bedford could do little to unlock the centre of the Hendon defence where James Constable looked a shadow of the player who scored prolifically in the National League Premier Division and League Two over the past 15 years.
Grace was well protected by Brown and Luke Tingey and, apart from one missed cross, dealt with every cross that came into the danger area. As for first-half shots,oly one was on target, but it was directed straight at him without much power. There was a header from Will Spetch from a corner, but it went over the bar.
In the 22nd minute, Hendon almost opened the scoring when Connor Calcutt broke free of the Poole defence and, from an acute angle, first a shot which was well saved at his near post by Luke Cairney. It proved to be the closest there was to a goal in the first half, though Calcutt did go close when he glanced a header from Charlie Smith, but it went inches the wrong side of the far post with Cairney struggling to reach the ball.
Poole made a change at half-time, Jake Scrimshaw replacing Sam House in a bid to add more firepower up front. The first chance, however, came at the other end as Shaquille Hippolyte-Patrick forced another good save from Cairney.
Hendon's first real alarm came in the 56th minute when a left-wing corner was met by a superb header from Spetch. It beat Grace and seemed destined to open the scoring for Poole but Chappell got back and made a fantastic hooked goal-line clearance. The only ones claiming a goal were Dolphins fans, but it was a heart-in-the-mouth moment for the Greens.
Just before the hour mark, a pass back to Grace was slammed into touch by the goalkeeper, who immediately pointed downfield, where he had seen Sergio Manesio was lying injured. The midfielder could not continue and Ogo Obi replaced him. Poole did not feel that the goalkeeper had deliberately put the ball out of play and kept possession, forced a corner but it came to nothing.
Both teams made further changes. Calcutt was withdrawn by Hendon and Lewis Toomey replaced him, while Poole sent on Tyrique Clarke in place Josh Leslie-Smith, another attacking substitution by the Dolphins.
With 20 minutes to go, Poole almost pushed the self-destruct button when Cairney, pressured by the approaching Obi, passed to Jack Dickson. The full-back was caught in possession and Obi immediately fired a 35-yard lob towards the unguarded goal. Cairney back-pedalled more in hope than an attempt to make a save and was grateful to see the ball land on the top of the net.
With 15 minutes to go, Hendon forced a corner and Brown headed the ball goalwards. Jake Smeaton got his position right and made a headed clearance from a yard or two in front of the goalline.
This led to a quick break down the right flank by Poole. The ball was crossed into the penalty area and Sam Griffin went down as he challenged with Hammond and Poole players screamed for a penalty.
Play was allowed to continue and Hendon built down their right side. Hippolyte-Patrick teased Smeaton and then rolled the ball into the path of Ryan HOPE, who drilled a beautiful low shot into the bottom corner, firing across Cairney's despairing dive. Before play could resume, Griffin was cautioned, presumably for a comment to the referee.
Having gone a goal up, Hendon made a defensive change with JJ Da Cruz taking over from Charlie Smith. A couple of minutes later, Poole made their last throw of the dice, sending on James Boote in place of Smeeton.
With five minutes to go, the Hendon defence showed great bravery in a goalmouth scramble. Bedford and Corby Moore saw their shots blocked, by Jacob Gardiner-Smith and Hope, before Marvin Brooks fired wide.
As the game moved into the dying seconds of normal time, Toomey made a break, which ended with him going to ground. The referee did not award a free-kick, but his assistant saw something and immediately flagged for a free-kick.
Toomey needed lengthy treatment and was helped from the field holding his shoulder while the Poole player saw yellow. The bigger sanction, however, came from OBI, who curled the free-kick from about 30 yards into the top corner. It was a magnificent strike worthy of winning any game.
Poole's hearts had been broken and they showed little in terms of quality in attempts to get back into the game. Although the second half had been littered with multiple stoppages, the referee contented himself with just five minutes of additional time and the final whistle was greeted with elation by the Greens players and supporters alike.
Hendon manager James Gray went on social media, noting the criticism of the team after the disappointing loss to Hartley Wintney, with the comment. "Always nice to silence the critics, appreciate the tough times, they only make you stronger. Some people have no idea what it takes to do what we do as non league managers.
"Proud manager tonight. Boys were excellent; they did that for the club and fans
"Huge relief. The boys executed the plan perfectly."