Despite the absence of half a dozen regulars, London Lions Garston Masters put in one of their hardest working shifts of the season and deservedly won through to the semi-finals of the AFA Vets Trophy.
AFA Vets Trophy Quarter-Final:
Civil Service 1 London Lions Garston Masters 2
Saturday, 16 January, 2016
The pitch wasn’t the best, but out wide it was decent enough and thus where Lions wanted to play. Max Radford showed early on that there was space out there, cutting inside and delivering a cross that went narrowly over the bodies in the box. But receiving a short free-kick out wide on the other flank just seven minutes in, this time his luck was in as his deep cross this time drifted up and over the bamboozled keeper and right into the top corner to give Lions an early lead.
Buoyed by this, and with Baum starting to get on the ball, Lions really pressed. Danny Sugarman and Adam Kaye combined to pull the ball back to Lenchner on the penalty spot. Back to goal he spun and dug out an audacious curling attempt that crashed back off the post. And luck would desert Lions again just moments later when a mazy Richard Baum run saw him leave three defenders for dead and the goalkeeper on his back side. Retaining his balance he clipped the ball back across goal where Craig Pearl nodded the ball home, only for the score to be ruled out for offside despite all those in blue insisting the ball was played backwards.
And as is the want of the football gods, within a minute Civil Service, who had started to threaten, fashioned a fine move that led to an equalising goal. Neat passing created space down their left, the winger cutting inside before curling to the far post where the ball was headed back for the forward to half-volley home, this time the goal was allowed to stand despite loud Lions claims for offside.
The game became very open, both sides having great chances to add to the scoreline. Service capitalised on a slip by Lazard but blazed over, then fired from the edge of the box wide. For Lions, Kaye did all the hard work in rounding the goalkeeper, but with two waiting for a pull-back and a tap-in, he slipped and only succeeded in finding the goalkeeper’s arms. A terrific run from Sugarman then afforded him a sight of goal, but he sliced wide meaning the sides went in level at the interval.
The pattern of the game continued, but Tony Gold and Pete Lazard, ably assisted by the disciplined work of Joel Nathan, Danny Gordon and skipper Craig Henry kept Bradley Lee well protected in the Lions goal. At the other end Kaye beat two, cut inside and fired the sweetest of strikes that this time crashed back off the post. Lions were starting to dictate play and, on the hour, forged ahead. Radford’s long throw found Paul Lenchner on the edge of the box. He did brilliantly to first hold off the Service skipper and then, with a cheeky back heel, find the run of Gideon Barnett into the box. His fierce shot brought a fine save from the goalkeeper, but there was the livewire Adam Kaye on hand to prod home the rebound to send Lions 2-1 up.
Service of course came again and had their chances. Lee only half dealt with a long-range shot, but was then up quickly to bravely divert the follow up onto the bar, while late on a ball across goal was somehow prodded wide. But had, late on, the big skipper headed the ball in for an equaliser all hell would probably have broken loose as, ten minutes earlier, he should have been sent-off. Barnett was sent through by Pearl with a clear run on goal that would have settled the tie. Just about to shoot as the keeper advanced, his legs were crudely scythed away from him – the referee inexplicably awarding only a yellow and a free-kick on the edge of the box.
Thankfully though Lions were able to see the game out, Radford running the ball into the corner to bring about the final whistle after seven minutes of injury time.
It was a day for the senior players to stand up and be counted, and not one failed to do so. Defensively all five were superb, Lazard and Gold mountains in the middle. Up top though Jacobs had challenged the front line to set the standards and that’s exactly what they did. Lenchner and Kaye ran tirelessly for the cause and it was great to see Barnett back in a Lions shirt doing the same. Kudos though to the entire 13.