London Lions captain Jordan Green produced a virtuoso late show to shatter Whetstone Panthers U15 and give London Lions Whites the Challenge Cup at a sun drenched Harvesters FC.
The Lions captain, in what may be his last game for the club, struck twice in the last 15 minutes to break Whetstone hearts after what had been a scrappy game which saw neither side ever dominate.
On a difficult surface the game started at a frantic pace with both sides struggling to get the ball down and play. The first 15 minutes of play was a midfield battle with no real chances created as both sides failed to capitalise in the final third of the pitch.
However, Whetstone tool the lead ten minutes before the break when their right winger lofted a diagonal ball into the Lions area which caught out both Alex Randall and Aidan Raphael to allow the centre forward slide in from five yards past the helpess Jack Rifkin in the Lions goal.
Half-time couldn’t come soon enough for the Lions which provided an opportunity for the managment to make a few changes. Sam Hamerton replaced Max Misrahi, with the lively Jack Mattey moving inside to central midfield.
The second half got underway with Lions starting to get into the game, though chances were once again few and far between for both sides. The Lions centre back pairing of Nathan Anders and Aidan Raphael weren’t allowing the Whetstone forwards any joy, and as the second half wore on, the Lions became camped in the Whetstone half. Ethan Novak was thrown further forward down the left with the ever reliable Ben Feldman coming in at left-back, Ben Lazarus came on at right-back which enabled the energetic Sam Hamerton to drive the team on. The changes began to pay dividends as with 15 minutes left on the clock, Hamerton drove at the Whetstone back line which caused panic in the area, the ball feel kindly to captain Green, who beat a player and from a tight angle shot across the goalkeeper into the bottom left corner.
Back on level terms, the Lions continued to press and win the ball high up. The midfield of Novak, Green, Hamerton, Misrah, Leigh and Mattey were now at full steam with Alex Rose and Nathan Davis chasing everything down. And they were rewarded three minutes from time when they got their deserved winner. Once again Green found himself in the right place at the right time as he scored from a similar angle as his first which resulted in pandemonium! The impressive Randall came back on to replace Jack Mattey who ran himself into the ground. Whetstone threw everything forward but the Lions back five of Rifkin, Feldman, Anders, Raphael and Lazarus stood firm, with wild celebrations on the touchline once the referee blew the final whistle.
Lions coach Darren Yarlett said: “I’m so proud of the lads. I’ve only been with them since September and their attitude and willingness to learn has been first class, they now have an identity and a structure in the way the club wants them to play and have taken all this on board which is a credit to themselves. This group will only get better and better, everything is there for them to improve with the facilities and coaching at their disposal. In my opinion this is the future of Jewish football, they will get all my time and effort to reach the end goal for Lions and hopefully for future GB squads at European and World Games. A huge amount of credit has to go to Mark & Daryll who ended the season off with a second place finish and cup winners.”
Speaking about the departure of skipper Green, he said: “It’s a real shame for the club but Jordan has decided to join his Brent district side who will enter Sunday morning football from next season. For me personally, I can only encourage him to go and play the highest standard possible and experience something else and he knows the door is always open at Lions if he wishes to return. With my involvement now confirmed back with the Saturday 1st team, some of the players will be invited to train with senior members of the club throughout the season and Jordan would have been a part that to help his development. With my link between the U16’s and 1st team opportunities will always be given to the best players and hopefully one day he will return.”
Manager Mark Rose said: “This was the third time lucky for the boys, we had lost our last two cup finals and today made up for those defeats, it wasn’t pretty and in a cup final the main aim is to lift the trophy at the end of the game and that’s what we did. I just want to mention my co-manager Darryl Lazarus who missed the game today due to a very important business trip…..in Vegas! He’s been top class all season and this win was for him.”
Jack Rifkin, Alex Randall, Nathan Anders, Aiden, Raphael, Ethan Novak, Ben Feldman, Ben Lazarus, Sam Hamerton, Jordan Green (c) George Leigh, Max Misrahi, Jack Mattey, Alex Rose, Nathan Davis