MASTERSRAIDERS

North London Raiders celebrate with the Henry Swerner Cup

North London Raiders’ double-winning player-manager Elan Ovits says it’s a pleasure to manage and play in the “best ever Masters team”.

Henry Swener Masters Cup Final:
North London Raiders 3 Waldaf Town 1
Sunday, 10 may, 2015

The Raiders confirmed their status as being the Masters team of the season after they completed the league and cup double by beating Waldaf Town 3-1 at Wingate & Finchley FC.

The stand-out team of this campaign, the side recently wrapped up the Division One title, having won 14 of their 18 games and could finish 16 points  ahead of second-place, depending on Waldaf’s final two league games.

And paying his side the highest of accolades, Ovits said: “I’ve been playing Masters for five years and managing the team with Gavin Hodes for two. This is by far the best squad of players we’ve ever assembled and finally after three attempts we’ve won a cup final. The lads have showed true commitment and consistently maintained the very highest standards from start to finish. It’s been a privilege to manage and play in the best ever Masters team.

Sunday’s win was effectively wrapped up in a 20-minute spell in the first half as two goals from Tony Plaskow, either side of David Lederman’s tidy finish, put them in firm control. Alex Bourne pulled a goal back for Waldaf on the hour mark, though Raiders never looked in danger of relinquishing their lead.

Reflecting back on the game, Ovits said: “I thought we were the stronger team for most of the game and played some terrific football, especially in the first half. Credit to Waldaf they never gave up and were much more competitive in the second half.

“We had a game plan, which the lads stuck too and controlled the first half with some fantastic interchange play and quality crosses and goals. Despite scoring three first half goals, we weren’t able to maintain our high tempo for 90 minutes and Waldaf deserved their goal.”

Having claimed the double this season, he knows his team will face a tough time of it next year as they look to retain their two titles. “As champions we know that all the other teams are going to get stronger and want to beat us,” he says. “However, the real challenge for us is to continue to maintain our very high standards and focus. If the lads show as much commitment and quality as they’ve done this season, then we will be in a good place and challenge for honours once again.

“Most of us lads have been playing 11-a-side football for the past 30 years and have enjoyed every minute of it. This is mainly down to the fantastic organisation and dedication of our Jewish leagues committees and volunteers. We hope to see many more clubs join Masters football in years to come and continue to enjoy playing the wonderful game.

Waldaf co-manager Jeremy King , who is also the side’s captain, was left ‘gutted’ by the result. He said: “We were very disappointed with ourselves during that 15-20 minute spell. I think they wanted it more at the beginning and that cost us. We were caught on our heels, were too worried about making sure everyone got game time as we wanted everyone to enjoy the big occasion and as captain I’m gutted.

“I think after that, we proved we’re a good side and can actually match them. They have had a magnificent season and are certainly the team to chase and aspire to. Next season we will come back stronger and faster.”

Having now made their first appearance at Wingate, King hopes this defeat will help serve as inspiration to get them back there again. He said: “I think it will certainly inspire us to get there again next season. We’re very hungry for success and this was the first step. It’s only our third year as a club in this division, so we want to keep improving, although none of us are getting any younger.”

And believing this season can still be deemed as a success with the possibility of runners-up spot in the Division One, he says: “If we can finish second for the second successive season, and having reached a cup final it will be deemed a success. However, we want to be first and winning cups, but this is hopefully the start of a successful journey for us.”