Hendon slumped to another disappointing home defeat on Monday night. A physical Heybridge Swifts side scored 3 second half goals and missed a penalty to run out 4-1 winners at LOOT Stadium.
Richard Wilmot made a welcome return to the club following his signing from Hitchin Town after his 3-month loan spell ended with a broken arm in the final game of the period. Warren Kelly and Jason Soloman were both out nursing injuries, while David Adekola made way for Dale Binns in the starting line-up. Manager Frank Murphy's plans were further disrupted when Jon Daly had a sudden work emergency that prevented his appearance. On the positive side, Davis Haule and Bontcho Guentchev both returned to the squad following long spells out.
Heybridge's direct football unsettled Hendon from the very start and the Greens had a few nervy moments in the opening 20 minutes, but the Swifts were equally inconvenienced by Binns' pace down the left flank.
In the 28th minute, and rather against the run of play, Hendon took the lead. Otis Roberts made a quick break down the right side of the penalty area. His whipped cross was met by Gary Waters at full stretch. He fell to the ground and as he tried to break his fall, his arm inadvertently knocked the ball away.
By the letter of the law, it was handball, and referee Mr N Appleby (Herts) pointed to the spot. Swifts goalkeeper Kingsley Banks and Waters immediately ran to the referee to protest, the latter player loudly shouting at Mr Appleby in language that demanded a red card. The official, on his debut at this level - he was an assistant referee last season - was not swayed by the protests, but took no further action. Ross PICKETT stepped and lifted the ball over Banks to give Hendon the lead.
It took less than 8 minutes for Heybridge to draw level, Terry WARWICK finishing off a neat passing move after Hendon had needlessly given away possession just outside their own penalty area. Twice in the first half, Swifts broke rapidly out of defence following Hendon corners but fired wayward shots at the other end.
Hendon did go close three times in 5 minutes just before the break. First Pickett had a header saved by Banks, whose dive was tailor-made for a sensationalist newspaper. It was an easy save made to look much harder than it was, just as Banks showed when he plunged low to stop a shot from Binns. The last effort left him completely flat-footed, but the deflection off David Streetly rolled a foot wide of Banks' right post.
In the 48th minute, Mr Appleby's inexperience appeared to be abused by Banks. The goalkeeper collided with Pickett as the pair went for a ball wide of the near post, close to the edge of the 6-yard-box. The players were looking at the ball and neither committed a foul and any contact was completely accidental.
Both players went to ground and as they got up, Banks raked his boot down Pickett's shin. and grabbed his arm. As the striker attempted to extricate himself from the predicament, Banks fell to the ground as if elbowed. After speaking to his assistant, Mr Appleby warned both players, but took no action over Banks' theatricals.
Three minutes later, Paul Adolphe appeared to be taken down in the penalty area, but as he didn't writhe around in agony, Mr Appleby, out of position and not up with play, allowed Heybridge to clear. "It's a learning process," the referee admitted after the game. Unfortunately, Heybridge did nothing but take advantage of the official's naivety.
If the defensive side of Heybridge's game shows of the bad side of football, the attacking players highlight the good. Fast and direct in attack, they have the talent to unsettle the best of opponents. They found Hendon well off this level after the break. In the 59th minute, Glenn MOSS drove a 35-yarder high into the roof of the net, a goal reminiscent of the one Steven Gerrard scored at Anfield against Manchester United on Saturday.
Hendon brought on Haule and Iain Duncan for Simon Clarke and Adolphe with 15 minutes to go as they tried to chase the game. Instead, within a minute, the Greens should have been 3-1 down when a rash challenge brought a second penalty. It was very powerfully struck, but smacked against the outside of the post and went away to safety.
Eight minutes later, more slapdash defending gifted the ball to Heybridge and Colin WALL's shot was probably going wide until Chris Sparks got his foot to it. The ball went behind the wrong-footed Wilmot and into the net. In stoppage time, the misery was complete when a poor throw-out by Wilmot was collected by Sean Caton and he set up WARWICK for his second goal.
"I don't know what to say," said a sombre Mr Murphy after the game. "Almost everything they struck went in. I thought Marvyn Watson was different class tonight. We are struggling to score goals at the moment."