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Hendon can challenge for play-offs if they improve defence, says captain Maclaren

Kevin Maclaren Kevin Maclaren

Thursday, December 5, 2013
9:30 AM

Skipper Kevin Maclaren insists Hendon are capable of mounting a charge for the play-offs as long as they tighten up at the back.

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The Dons were left to focus on their league form after being surprisingly dumped out of the FA Trophy by lower division side Whitstable Town on Sunday.

Hendon, who have only kept one clean sheet in the last two months, were undone again by two defensive lapses after top scorer Jefferson Louis had headed them into the lead.

But Maclaren believes this weekend’s home clash with Premier Division leaders AFC Hornchurch offers a perfect opportunity for the Greens to put their Trophy exit behind them and assert their promotion credentials.

“Everyone’s really gutted,” he said. “The changing room’s deflated, but we’ll go again and we’ve really got to concentrate on the league now.”

Maclaren added: “Saturday’s massive for us after a result like this. Hornchurch is going to be a good test for us because we haven’t played anyone of note recently, anyone that’s up there challenging.

“The manager made it clear at the start of the season that he wanted us to be a play-off team and that’s where we expect ourselves to be come the end of April.

“We had a run of indifferent results at the start, but we’ve got things right since then. We’re scoring a lot of goals and if we can put it right at the other end and stop conceding, I think we’ll be up there.

“Jefferson’s been great up front and Anthony Thomas has come in and done a good job alongside him in the last couple of games. If we can just get it right at the back, we’ll be a force at home and away.”

Hendon had been hoping to reach the last 32 of the competition for the first time since 2003, but fortune was not on their side as Louis, Tony Taggart and Sam Flegg all hit the woodwork in a scoreless first half.

Although Louis converted Chris Seeby’s cross to give the Greens the lead in the 69th minute, Laurence Harvey headed the Whitstable equaliser past Berkley Laurencin soon afterwards.

Hendon might have had a penalty when Lee O’Leary was sent sprawling in the box, but the incident was missed by referee Lloyd Wood – one of several questionable decisions from the match officials.

And Laurencin – Hendon’s hero with a last-minute penalty save in the previous round against Oxford City – was caught out again 15 minutes from time as he failed to prevent substitute Charlie Smith from netting the Oysters’ winner.

“Berkley could have done better, but he’s been brilliant for us and pulled off a couple of really good stops as well, so we’ve got to get his chin up for the next game,” added Maclaren.

“I thought our performance probably didn’t warrant losing the game – it was a couple of individual mistakes and probably the reaction after we went 2-1 down wasn’t the best.

“I didn’t think the officials helped our cause at all either. It felt like everything went against us and when that’s the case, the underdogs usually get the win.”

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