JOSEPH

Ben Joseph was on target for the Raiders

A dramatic injury time strike saw Raiders book their place at Wingate as they edged out Oakwood in a pulsating cup semi-final.

Cyril Anekstein Cup Semi-Final:
Oakwood A 1 Norstar London Raiders A 2
Sunday, 16 February, 2015

Raiders team news made interesting reading with Stock failing a late fitness test. This meant Richman made two changes to the side that had defeated Harmen two weeks earlier. Out went Espinoza and Stock and in came Dinkin and Marks.

Five minutes into the game Raiders suffered the blow of losing captain Rhodes to a groin injury. Morris was substituted on and Pistol switched from full-back to centre-back. The opening half an hour was very competitive with chances at both ends. Doffman saved well from Wine and then Mannie couldn’t convert after rounding the goalkeeper.

Twelve minutes before half-time Oakwood took the lead when Dave Woolman cooly converted after Raiders had appealed in vain for offside. The goal rattled Raiders and Oakwood finished much the stronger side to half time.

Raiders regrouped at half-time but were indebted to another moment of magic from Ben Joseph to draw level. Already this season Joseph had scored spectacular free kicks against Hendon, Harmen as well as in the sunday challenge cup but yesterday’s was the best yet. Twenty five yards out the Raiders number eleven effortlessly curled the ball into the top right corner giving the goalkeeper no chance whatsoever.

Raiders now with a spring in their step pushed for a winner, but Oakwood led by the imperious Levine stood strong. Oakwood still looked dangerous on the counter-attack but the effort expended closing down Raiders in the first half had taken its toll and it was the team in orange who looked stronger as the game edged towards extra time.

Just as the game looked destined for an extra thirty minutes of extra-time, Raiders clinched a dramatic winner. Excellent work down the right hand side between Joseph, Engleman and Morris led to the latter putting in a dangerous cross to the back post where the tireless Liron Mannie headed past the despairing Oakwood number 1. There was just enough time for Oakwood to kick-off but that was all as Lavender blew up to end a pulsating cup semi-final.

Norstar manager Rob Richman said: ” Firstly I think it’s only fair to speak about Oakwood. They played their part in a brilliant game of football between two committed but excellent sides. They will be back next season, I have no doubt about that and I’d be astonished if they aren’t pushing on all three fronts. I’d also like to pay special credit to Adam Levine, he’s been out injured for most of this season but if anyone didn’t deserve to lose a semi final it was him yesterday. He was a colossus for Oakwood and if they keep him fit they will be that much stronger.

“For us we are elated to be in the cup final again. It was a great team effort yesterday and the boys didn’t panic even when a goal down. For all the effort they’ve put in this season they deserve to be in this cup final. However the boys know this is just the start of some crucial games which come thick and fast over next few months. Exciting times ahead.”