Hendon continued their dreadful run of League results against Pufleet with yet another defeat, this Ryman Premier Division game ending 3-1 to the Essex team at LOOT Stadium on Saturday.
The very physical Essex club have lost only one of the last 10 meetings between the club, and most have been comfortable victories. To take nothing away from Purfleet, they are a very hard, uncomplicated, uncompromising team with a fantastic work ethic and probably the best team spirit in the League. Coach David Crown admitted, "We are probably the Wimbledon of the League."
The Dons welcomed back both Gary McCann and Paul Towler after 8 weeks on the sidelines with groin and knee problems, respectively. The 10 outfield players remained unchanged, so Towler had a seat on the bench, alongside Bontcho Guentchev and Davis Haule, himself recovered from a hamstring injury.
Within a dozen seconds, Hendon were behind. Purfleet took the kick-off, knocked the ball back to Jon Keeling, who launched a defence-splitting pass into the path of Paul Combs.
His shot was blocked by McCann, who had rushed off his line, but looped high in the air towards the far post. Curtis Warmington jumped with George GEORGIOU and the latter player got the decisive touch. Simon Clarke tried an acrobatic clearance but it was in vain.
Four minutes later, Dominic Gentle received an accidental elbow in the face from Jimmy McFarlane and staggered to the ground. Referee Mr M Tingey (Bucks) gave a free-kick, not for this collision - inside the penalty area - but a phantom challenge on Marvyn Watson in the "D". Freddie Hyatt's free-kick was deflected for a corner, but this kick was wasted. Purfleet soon made Hendon pay.
A free-kick was floated into the Hendon penalty area and KEELING was left unmarked to flick a header into the roof of the net by the far post. It was very poor defending by Hendon to allow the shortest man on the Purfleet team a free-header.
Hendon did get back into the game just after the half-hour mark. Another Hyatt corner was delivered into the Purfleet penalty area and this time Jon DALY rose highest to head powerfully home. With this lifeline, Hendon had to defend sensibly until half-time. They failed to do this in disappointing fashion.
Again the route was from a dead-ball situation. This time, McCann came off his line to punch the ball clear, but failed to do so. The ball looped up to the far post where Jamie SOUTHON had a free run to nod in an easy goal. The goalkeeper admitted the error was his.
Guentchev came on Warmington at half-time, the central defender having suffered a knee to the leg which stiffened up during the interval. The Dons moved to a flat back four with Matt Howard and Clarke outside Matt Bartholomew and Gary Fitzgerald. It was up to Hendon to get back into the game and this played right into the long-ball tactics loved by Purfleet.
Bartholomew made one timely intervention recovering well after he had been caught out by a raking ball from the impressive Simon Webb. For half an hour, however, a goal seemed unlikely to arrive. Hendon made a double switch, replacing Fitzgerald and Hyatt, both of whom had been booked for fouls.
In the 75th minute, Guentchev linked well with Clarke, danced inside John Purdie and drilled a superb shot, which was kept out by an even better save from Steve Mead. The goalkeeper had not had to make a save until that moment, but he was a busy man in the final few minutes.
Daly was then denied by an alert catch from Mead, who then tipped a Guentchev free-kick aside. In stoppage time Paul Scott came close to notching his second goal for the club, but Southon did well to clear his goalbound header off the line.
"We gave them the game on a plate," said manager Frank Murphy. "I knew they would be hard to beat, but our defending was dreadful in the first half."