One of the more extraordinary evenings at LOOT Stadium ended on Monday with Hendon supporters celebrating a 1-0 victory over Hampton & Richmond Borough.
To describe this game as a real six-pointer with the teams in 13th and 16th places seems strange, but as the 12th team in the Ryman League Premier Division sits only 6 points above the team 10 places below them, then this was a must-win game for both teams, separated by a point at the start of play.
Hendon welcomed back Freddie Hyatt after a dose of sickness. He replaced Dale Binns, who took manager Frank Murphy's place on the bench. It meant that only 8 first-teamers were absent, a sign maybe that the injury crisis is beginning to come to an end.
Hampton started the game strongly and forced a succession of corners and free-kicks around the penalty area. However, Andy Iga was in fine form, catching crosses from left and right, while Matt Bartholomew, Curtis Warmington and Gary Fitzgerald - a big name defence if ever there was one - ensured few efforts ever found their way on target.
The importance of the game was not lost on the players and the first half was, to put it kindly, error-strewn. Hendon created little although there were signs that Hampton's defence was not made of the sternest stuff.
The game exploded in the last minute of the first half. A through ball seemed to be overstruck but Paul Scott gambled on getting a touch on it. Two Hampton defenders tried to shield the ball back to goalkeeper Rob Frankland, but Scott was not to be denied.
The ball was bouncing towards the goal-line 12 yards from the post when Frankland threw himself across Scott's path. In ice hockey or American football, the goalkeeper would have been praised. In soccer, the assistant referee said it was a penalty. Match official Mr A Field agreed and pointed to the spot.
Up stepped Dominic Gentle but his powerful kick was too close to Frankland, who saved well. The ball was hacked out for a corner. Freddie Hyatt curled the ball in. Gentle, leaping with a couple of defenders won the line-out, so to speak, but no official was sure who was guilty of handball.
The ball fell to the edge of a penalty area where a white shirt was about to shoot for goal, before a lunging challenge felled him. Mr Field pointed to the penalty spot again, his whole body language saying, "Oh dear, two penalties to the same team in 20 seconds."
Hampton's protests were waved away and Gentle again readied himself to take the kick. It went over the crossbar with Frankland again guessing correctly, but this time not being required to make a save.
The last time Hendon had two separate penalties in a minute was a late 1970s mid-season friendly against Brighton & Hove Albion, and these two were both missed too.
The second half was much more entertaining. Hendon upped the tempo considerably and had the Hampton defence stretched on a regular basis.
Poor Gentle, he was destined not to score. In the 53rd minute, Marvyn Watson and Scott set him up, but Frankland did brilliantly to block his shot. Six minutes later, the same two players went head to head and the goalkeeper, with his legs this time, denied the striker.
Watson lobbed a ball just wide of the far post, in the 70th minute, and Gentle's goalbound shot cannoned off Andy Walker's shins and flew away to safety. Jon Daly was unlucky to be given offside on another through ball as a defender's clearance rebounded off a Hendon player and fell to Daly, behind the last defender.
Hampton were still dangerous on the break, but Iga continued to deal with everything thrown at him. The unease among Hendon supporters grew as time went by, and fatalistic fans could be heard to mutter, "It's the same old story; we can't score and they'll nick a late winner."
Hampton brought on Warren Williams for Darren Adams, but he could not turn the tide the Beavers' way. Hendon then made a double-change in the last 10 minutes, bringing on Nathan Edwards and Dale Binns for Gentle and Watson, respectively. It was an inspired double-switch.
In the 87th minute, Hendon won a throw-in near to the Hampton line. Hyatt's long throw was headed to the edge of the penalty area, where Binns lined up a return shot.
The shot was quite powerful but was at a comfortable height for Frankland. Or would have been had he seen it all the way. He was unsighted and dived late for the ball.
The little bit of swerve was just enough to force Frankland to parry the ball rather than catch it or push it away. The ball bounced down in front of him and bounced towards the 6-yard-line.
EDWARDS was first to react and he picked his spot between the stanchion and the near post. The 17-year-old's accuracy was unwavering and Hendon had the lead.
There were still a few minutes of normal and stoppage time to be played, but Hendon held out with some comfort. The victory lifted the Greens up to 12th spot, 7 points above the drop zone.
Under-18s manager Alan Rolnick, who discovered Edwards four years ago, was watching the game and described it excitedly, "It's one of the best moments of my whole life."
First team boss Frank Murphy said, "Fair play to Dominic. After missing those two penalties he could have hidden, but he didn't and was very unlucky not to score. He had one of those nights. I thought that Nathan and Binnsy, with their extra pace, might just make the difference, and I was proved right."