Hendon went down to a disappointing 1-0 defeat at Slough Town on Saturday afternoon. However, they had nobody to blame but themselves after dominating the vast majority of the Ryman League Premier Division game at Wexham Park, including a missed 62nd- minute penalty.
New signing RenÃƒÂ© Street, from Northwood, made his debut at centre-half - coming in for midfielder Dale Binns, but there were also changes at right wing-back, Marvyn Watson replacing Iain Duncan, and striker, Bontcho Guentchev taking David Adekola's place.
It was nearly a dream debut for Street, too, as he crashed a header goalwards in just the 3rd minute. He was denied a goal by Steve Mautone's athletic save and the rebound was headed clear by Garry Cross. Street again came close with a header from a Phil Gridelet corner, but having lost his marker, he should have at least forced Mautone to make a save.
There were very few chances at either end, Gary McCann's busiest moment being to collect a header from Cross which was aimed at the far post, although it appeared to be drifting wide of the target. For all their possession, Hendon just didn't do enough in attack. A perfect example of this was fine interplay between Jason Soloman and Haule, the latter of whom sent Paul Adolphe into space. Adolphe's cross only needed a touch from a Hendon man to open the scoring, but nobody was remotely close to the ball.
All too often neat approach work was ruined by a poor final ball. Haule was extremely well shackled by the giant Chris White, while Bontcho Guentchev, in a central striking role rather than playing just behind the front two, did most of his best work away from the penalty area. Some of his touches and passes were sublime but they weren't in areas that caused Slough serious inconvenience.
Slough started the second half much better and Street showed his defensive quality with a brilliantly-timed block tackle on Paul Coombs as he burst in on goal. Unfortunately, the 25-year-old fireman picked up a groin injury performing his heroics and he was soon replaced by Binns.
This enforced change cost Hendon dearly, although it was not immediately obvious. Simon Clarke moved alongside Warren Kelly and Gary Fitzgerald, leaving Hendon with Watson and Binns as wing-backs, roles that both players were capable of playing, but they are much happier in more advanced roles.
In the 59th minute, Hendon had loud penalty shouts turned down by referee Mr D Deadman (Herts). There probably was a handball by White, but the ball appeared to strike the defender's arm as he stooped to make a clearing header and certainly didn't move his arm into the ball's path. Mr Deadman had no angle to see the incident so he looked to his assistant for a decision, but none was forthcoming.
Three minutes later it was a different matter. Adolphe came in off the right flank, played a crisp one-two with Haule and seemed set for a shot at goal, until he was sent crashing to the ground by Steve Stott. Mr Deadman had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot. Kelly walked to the touchline to retrieve the ball where it had been hacked away after the decision was made. He put the ball down to the referee's satisfaction, tried to ignore the blatant gamesmanship from the Rebels players and struck the ball powerfully. Unlike his three previous spot-kicks this effort from Kelly did not stay low and Mautone, having guessed correctly, made a fine save, albeit with the ball at an ideal height for the keeper.
The rebound was another matter. Soloman was the first to react and his header seemed destined for the top corner. Mautone's reactions were even better and he made a brilliant save to push this effort aside. It was a turning point for Slough, who suddenly believed that this just might be their day. They still didn't do a great deal of attacking but they had greater faith in their defending.
Hendon's crossing, not good in the first half, deteriorated as the game progressed and the Greens were made to pay in a fiery endgame. Three minutes from the end of normal time, Gridelet made a late challenge on former Hendon man Junior Haynes. It was a clear foul and a very obvious yellow card. However, Haynes' reaction, throwing the ball at the prone Gridelet, should have earned him punishment more severe than the yellow card Mr Deadman issued.
The free-kick was only half-cleared and Graham Kemp knocked the ball back into the danger area. Keith McPHERSON nipped in behind the defence, got to the ball before McCann and knocked it into the net. In the 5+ minutes of stoppage time, tempers got more heated, but Hendon could not find an equaliser.
"I can't believe we lost that game," said a crestfallen Frank Murphy. "The turning point was the missed the penalty. I thought we passed very well, but our final ball was not so good."