RAIDERSCUPNorstar London Raiders B completed a league and cup double on Sunday evening, after they beat Hendon United B to win the inaugural MMFL-MGBSFL Invitation Trophy, writes Jeremy Silverstone.

MMFL-MGBSFL Invitation Trophy, sponsored by Purple Marketing
Hendon United Sports B 2 Norstar London Raiders B 3
Sunday, 4 May, 2014

VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS TO FOLLOW ON TUESDAY…

And believing his side prevailed because of their mental strength, manager Jonathan Adelman told jewishnews.co.uk: “It was a good entertaining game off football full of chances at both ends and played in an excellent spirit. In the end I think as with most cup finals where the teams are well matched, it’s about which team has the mental strength to get over the line [and we did].

“We knew the quality that Hendon have, and that their pace would be a real threat. We had a game plan but perhaps the adrenalin of the occasion got to us and we didn’t control possession as we usually do. We found ourselves pushing too many men forward and leaving ourselves exposed on the break. We made a few adjustments and I felt we were the better team in the second half. Although their second goal was well taken, Mike Hershman was terrorising their defence and I always felt that would pay dividends eventually. Once we equalised I had no doubt we would go on to win. It was especially pleasing for everyone in Orange that Robert Richman, man and boy a Raider and now Life Vice President of the Club, was part of that stirring comeback and was on the pitch at the final whistle.”

Hendon had started the game the stronger of the two teams, and looked especially threatening down their left flank, but it was Norstar who took the lead – against the run of play – when after 20 minutes David Esterkin ran onto a long through-ball and clipped the ball over Hendon ‘keeper Josh Linder.

Nevertheless, Hendon continued to press forward, and had several shots just over the bar before another well-worked move down the left resulted in a low cross which was met by Chaim Gothold. Although he mis-kicked his first effort, he maintained his composure to swivel and hit a low drive into the bottom lefthand corner to equalise.

Hendon maintained their dominance, benefitting from Norstar surrendering possession too easily, and almost went ahead three minutes later when a corner from the right was headed onto the underside of the bar and down onto the goal line, but despite Hendon’s claims that it had crossed the line, referee David Goldberg and assistant referee Ken Goldman disagreed.

After the break, the pattern continued, and it was no surprise that Hendon took the lead in the 64th minute. They were awarded a free-kick near the righthand corner of the Norstar penalty area, and the cross was firmly headed home by captain, Alex Neiss, putting his team ahead for the first time.

However, Norstar were not finished, and going behind seemed to spur them into playing a more controlled, relaxed passing game. They were able to find more space, and put together several fluent moves albeit without creating any clearcut chances. Indeed Hendon could have put the game beyond their reach with just 17 minutes remaining, when they were clean through but David Simmock in the Norstar goal managed to deflect the shot for a corner.

Just as it looked as if Hendon might be heading for victory, David Esterkin’s close-range angled shot put Norstar right back in it, and within two minutes, the tie had been turned on its head once more as Will Ufland capitalised on a long cross from the right to drill a shot into the bottom lefthand corner to put Norstar back in the driving seat.

The final ten minutes were dominated by Hendon as they pushed forward in search of another leveller, but the Norstar defence held firm, and the prize was theirs.

This competition was the first in what is hoped to be an annual trophy pitting MGBSFL teams against Masters teams, and it seems that both sets of clubs have benefitted from and enjoyed the new challenge, and it is hoped that the format will be extended to include more teams next season.

Reflecting on their performance, Adelman said: “By the high standards we’ve set ourselves this season we were below par in the first half and really only clicked in to gear after David Simnock pulled off a fantastic save to stop Hendon going 3-1 up.

“That moment seemed to spark us in to life and overall I think we deserved the win not just for the quality of the goals but the sheer desire of the boys who time and again this season simply don’t know when they are beaten. As our cup final song predicted “they can’t deal with another orange comeback”.

Enthusiastic about the competition. He said: “We had to adapt to playing Masters teams, who play a different kind of game – slower but trickier! But it’s been a great learning experience, and we’ve really enjoyed it. Hendon played really well today, but we kept going, and were rewarded in the end.”

An also able to reflect back on a successful season, which saw his side also crowned MGBMSFL Division Two champions, he added: “We set very high targets at Raiders but the truth is that this year was have smashed them out of the park. The A’s have had a remarkable season finishing in the top two in the Premier League, the highest the Club has ever achieved plus they were the first Raiders team to reach a major cup Final. Our C’s have been outstanding and deservedly won the Division 3 title. And there is Raiders B – an historic double, an ‘invincible’ league campaign and the season ending with Nicky Woolf going up the steps at Wingate to lift a Cup. It’s the stuff dreams are made of to be honest.

“We have already started planning for next season. Whilst we have a superb squad we know that we will strengthen if the right players are available. It’s not just about technical quality, we only look at bringing the right type of characters to what is a very special dressing room.”

Hendon player-manager Aryeh Goldring told jewishnews.co.uk: “We played really well for the majority of the game and were incredibly unlucky to lose. We switched off for three minutes  and conceded two soft goals cost us. Credit to Norstar they kept going and rallied at just the right time. We dominated but we failed to take our chances. There was a small period in the second half where we lost control of the game and I was probably responsible for that by making too many subs.”

And looking back on their season as a whole, which has seen them flirt with relegation in the MGBSFL Division One, he added: “We’ve had a frustrating season but we have shown we’re a match for most teams when we have our full squad available. We need to make sure we take the positives of the last eight weeks and retain the core group of players into next season and I’m confident we will have a better showing in the league.

“Norstar took their chances and we didn’t, that’s pretty much what it came down to.”

VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS TO FOLLOW ON TUESDAY…