MASTERSBALLWEB

by Andrew Sherwood

L’Equipe pushed the reigning Premier Division all the way in a pulsating cup tie, leaving an extremely proud manager in Nick Stern to reflect back on a memorable day…

Cyril Anekstein Cup Second Round:
North London Raiders A 3 L’Equipe 2
Sunday, 4 October, 2015

It all started at 9 am with a few heavy heads as L’Equipe entered the cauldron of the ark 3G pitches to face the reigning league champions in the shadows of the famous Wembley stadium. A dedicated plan had been drawn up by coach Mark Smith and all 14 members of the squad knew what their tasks were but even the most optimistic members of the squad knew that they were in for a long afternoon.

Under glorious sunshine and having had our boots expertly checked by the referee, L’Equipe started the first half with a classic centre, Andy to Mark… crossfield ball to the electric Mandell which ended in a throw-in to Raider – that may have been the only time something went wrong all afternoon.

Up against the reigning champions, L’Equipe’s plan was to stifle the midfield let by the Jonny Kay, to sit back and absorb all the pressure that they ultimately knew would come up against them. Twenty minutes went by and L’Equipe were looking comfortable. Mark Singer, Julian Bohm and Mark Smith were working their socks off in the middle of the park and though isolated, the front three of Andy Smith, James Mandell and Rob Simmons were tracking back and putting challenges in that they didn’t know the could do. The plan was working

The back four of Gideon Chain. Ian baron, Dave Prager and manager Nick stern were looking comfortable nullifying all the threats posed by some Raiders players. However, after 30 minutes the first goal was conceded. A sloppy free-kick on the end of the box was given, the Raiders captain rose above Singer to head home at the near post. At this point many of the crowd of eight thought that the floodgates would open, but how wrong they were. L’Equipe kept on battling, with goalkeeper Glucksman just a bystander as the defence and midfield cleared all that came their way. 1-0 at half time and a very happy L’Equipe walked off the pitch for a well deserved Lucozade and a sit down with heads held high. L’Equipe were very much still in and the game plan was working.

The team went onto the pitch for the second half thinking what if.. and maybe.. is it possible?! Then within 15 minutes of the second half the unthinkable happened – L’Equipe scored against the champions and the game was 1-1. To be honest I wish I could describe exactly what happened but all I can say it was bloody brilliant and Andy Smith kept his cool to slot home past the Raiders goalkeeper. Rather than go wild there were a lot of fist pumping, a few high fives and even a chest bump but the boys knew the game was far from over!

L’Equipe made a couple substitutions, bringing on Dan Finegold and Jeremy Newton and the battle recommenced. L’Equipe then had a ten-minute spell where without doubt they were on top. Passes were finding their men, Prager and Singer were winning every header and Gideon and Ian Baron were marauding down the wings. However, that elusive second goal never came. Then against the run of play disaster struck. Glucksman had just pulled off a world class double save before he was finally beaten. It’s a bit irrelevant how but it happened…and then it happened again as L’Equipe really tired.

However, in true L’Equipe spirit and after one final throw of the dice to bring on John ‘flick on’ Kay, L’Equipe scored again. Andy smith collected a delicious 50-yard ball from Ian Baron, beat two men and slotted home. Could a miracle happen? L’Equipe kept on pushing but sadly they couldn’t find an equaliser. L’Equipe walked off the pitch as warriors all 14 giving everything. Some Raiders players led by Jonny Kay, and their captain were pure class and congratulated myself and a lot of the players on a brilliant performance, something that was applauded by all in Orange.