Hendon produced by far and away their best performance of the preseason schedule on Tuesday night when they travelled to Broadwater and beat Berkhamsted Town 2-1.
Despite the absence of Gary Fitzgerald, Chris Sparks and Simon Clarke from the probable first-choice defence, Hendon still looked very comfortable and rarely looked under pressure. Micky Woolner dropped to right back and although the position was completely new to him, he adjusted brilliantly. Paul Yates also dropped back to accompany RenÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â© Street in the heart of the back four while Paul Johnson was at left back.
The addition of David Hook, an experienced goalkeeper with hundreds of games' experience at this level, certainly will have improved the communication and organisation at the back because Gary McCann will miss the start of the season as he comes back from off season knee surgery.
Ricci Crace and Davis Haule are starting to form an understanding up front and the darting runs of Marvyn Watson and Dale Binns wide right and left. respectively, gave the Berkhamsted defence all sorts of problems. In the middle of the field, Ross Pickett and Paul Towler revelled in their new roles and dominated last season's FA Vase finalists, themselves missing a number of key players.
There had been few clear cut openings before Hendon opened the scoring in the 33rd minute. Haule dragged former Hendon man Tony Kelly away from the heart of defence and delivered a low cross which seemed destined for Binns' foot. However, Paul ALDRIDGE got in first and he smashed the ball past Sean O'Connor for a spectacular own goal.
Sadly, Aldridge's involvement ended a few minutes later when he went down with a nasty-looking foot injury as the Berkhamsted defence tried to clear a corner. He was stretchered off the pitch after receiving lengthy treatment.
In the time added on for this injury, Hendon doubled their advantage. Pickett sent Binns down the left wing. He crossed the ball, but it went just too high for Haule. Watson retrieved the situation beyond the far post and sent in another teasing cross. This time CRACE went in bravely and, outjumping a defender taller than himself, headed home from close range.
Three minutes after the break, a great one-two between Haule and Crace sent the latter clear. His shot lacked authority and confidence and allowed O'Connor to make a sprawling save. Haule then went close with a good chance, but he failed to hit the target.
Eugene Ofori replaced Crace and really should have sewn the game up with a third goal after 68 minutes. He showed excellent control to drag the ball away from the last Berko defender and had only O'Connor to beat.
However, as he drew his foot back to shoot, a high speed train sped rattled past the ground. Rattled is the most appropriate word, because Ofori was clearly rattled and his shot missed not only the train, but also the six-yard box as well as the goal!
The second half substitutions clearly weakened Hendon and in the 81st minute, Neil YATES profited from defensive uncertainty to knock home a goal for Berkhamsted. With 3 minutes to go, Hendon were almost embarrassed as a long back-pass from Street went over Hook's head and bounced just a couple of feet beyond the far post, although the goalkeeper had recovered his position enough to be able to shepherd the ball wide.