Hendon’s excellent recent form continued with a narrow 1-0 victory over Bognor Regis Town at Vale Farm on Saturday.
Gary McCann's men now have six wins and a draw in the last eight Ryman League Premier Division matches and seven wins in nine games in all competitions since the middle of December.
“This was our biggest league win of the season,” said a delighted McCann after, “It was a really good performance from every single player.
“I was really proud of them. They couldn’t have given me more.
“The conditions were really difficult but we handled them very well. Both teams wanted to play the ball along the ground, but it wasn’t always possible because the rain had made the pitch so slick and slippery.”
The Greens made four changes to the starting line-up, with Sean Thomas, Belal Aite-Oaukrim, Lee Angol and Junior Morias taking over from Berkley Laurencin, Dave Diedhiou, Sean Sonner and Darren Currie. Diedhiou, Laurencin and Sonner were named as substitutes, alongside the returning James Fisher and Isaiah Rankin.
It took a while for the two teams to create a clear opening, and it was Hendon who nearly drew first blood. In the 17th minute, a good cross from Angol was headed back across goal by Casey Maclaren and Morias’s shot was well pushed aside by former Eastbourne Borough goalkeeper Nick Jordan.
A couple of minutes later, Dan Thompson fired wide of Thomas’s goal from a good position, then Doug Tuck fired over the crossbar from just outside the penalty area. Both were good chances, but scoring goals has been Bognor’s Achilles heel this season as they boast one of the division’s stingiest defences.
This tightness was evidenced by the rather cynical behaviour of Stuart Axten, who twice brought down Morias as play built up down the flanks. Morias was frustrated that neither offence was spotted by the match officials.
Just before half-time, Angol fired a shot which Jordan again saved well, but this time couldn’t hold on to the ball. Jordan was able to dive onto the loose ball just before Aite-Ouakrim could reach it and roll it into the empty net.
The miserable weather began to frustrate both teams and the game became rather testy. Players struggled to keep their feet, making things easier for the defenders, who had play coming towards them, but the Hendon defence was distinctly more at ease than the Rocks’.
Sam Flegg and Elliott Brathwaite have formed an excellent partnership in the two weeks they have played together and they were able to keep Bognor at arms’ length for most of the second. Either side of them, Howard Hall and Scott Cousins were on top of their attacking rivals, while Kevin Maclaren, in front, and Thomas, behind, ensured that there was little in the way of goalmouth action.
The probing play of Bognor skipper Kane Wills had been notable in the first half, but he was forced to be more defensive as Casey Maclaren and Dean Cracknell exerted control in midfield.
Jordan Clarke came on for Bognor’s Lewis Stockford eight minutes after the resumption and his busy play saw force Thomas into a save in the 64th minute. He later showed his defensive talent by taking the ball from near his own goalline and running through three tackles before finally passing the ball on the edge of the centre circle.
In the 67th minute, Hendon really should have taken the lead when a long throw-in eluded every one at the near post and in the middle of the penalty area. The ball came to the feet of Morias, who slipped as he tried to control the ball. This tiny hesitation was enough for Jordan to make a half-block and Jon Marzetti to complete the clearance.
Sonner took over from Aite-Ouakrim midway through the second half and he brought high-octane energy to unsettle the Bognor defence, already pestered to distraction by the clever running of Morias. Eventually Axten was spotted taking out Morias and he joined his opposite number five in the referee’s notebook.
With 20 minutes to, Tuck ran at the Hendon defence and created an opening for a shot. His effort, however, failed to match his approach play and the ball went harmlessly wide of the Hendon goal.
The winning goal came in the 79th minute and it was after the best move of the match.
Cracknell and Cousins played a neat one-two near the left touchline. A second pass from Cracknell was perfectly weighted to by-pass Marzetti and for Cousins to reach ten yards from the goalline. Hendon’s skipper cut in towards goal and from almost on the goalline, just inside the Bognor penalty area, he crossed towards the back post. Axten got the faintest of touches to the ball and it was enough to take it beyond Jordan at the near post. Rising higher at the far post, Angol got above Daryl Wollers and headed the ball into the net from a couple of yards out.
Bognor made a couple of late substitutions, as did Hendon – Diedhiou and Fisher taking over from Morias and Angol – but they couldn’t find a way back. They did force a couple of corners and had a free-kick on the edge of the box, but Flegg and Brathwaite were in mood to let the Hendon advance slip away.
Hendon: Thomas, Hall, Cousins, Flegg, Brathwaite, K Maclaren, Cracknell, C Maclaren, Morias (Diedhiou 87), Aite-Ouakrim (Sonner 68), Angol (Fisher 90). Not used: Rankin and Laurencin.