Norstar A all but secured the Premier Division title on Sunday morning after they deservedly beat Hendon A 3-2 in a thrilling top-of-the-table match.
MGBSFL Premier Division:
Hendon United A 2 Norstar London Raiders A 3
Sunday, 29 March, 2015
The win sees them join Hendon on 37 points at the top of the table, though having two games in hand on them – one of which is a result of Woodford pulling out of the match which should see them awarded the points by the League – they therefore in theory need just one more point to be crowned champions.
Knowing they have all but wrapped up the title, manager Rob Richman said: “We await the league’s final confirmation regarding the game in which Woodford pulled out, but assuming we get the three points from that it means we need just one point to secure the title. That is testament to all the hard work and commitment from all the boys all season.
“We have a few weeks grace now but we will be fully focused on making sure we secure at least the point we need at the earliest opportunity.”
Delighted in his side beating Hendon for the first time this season, having drawn the reverse league fixture and being beaten by them in the Cyril Anekstein Cup, he said: “We’re obviously delighted with our performance and the result. We’ve produced some very good stand-out performances this season, Oakwood at home, Harmen away and Redbridge in the cup spring to mind, but this was probably our best. Apart from a mad minute in the game we were exceptional. We didn’t let Hendon settle, so often a great feature of their play, and we attacked with pace and guile throughout. We made it difficult for ourselves by gifting Hendon two goals but we had the character to not let it unduly affect us and run out worthy winners.
“We played with a lack of fear today, the pressure was all on Hendon and we talked a lot before the game about going out and enjoying ourselves and proving what a good side we are. I think today we showed that. Our front three of Stock, Mannie and Marks were at times unplayable and Rhodes at centre-back was everything you’d want in a defensive leader.”
Dominating the first half, they only had Jordan Mark’s finish to show for their efforts, when in truth they easily could have gone into the break three goals to the good. That profligacy seemed to have cost them early in the second period as a mad minute, just minutes after the restart, saw Hendon turn the game on its head. Dovi Fehler surged down the right flank before firing the ball into the far corner, and less than 60 seconds later, a fine Hendon move resulted in Ben Kon, in a similar position to Fehler, also finding the back of the net.
Their lead didn’t though last for long as Matt Stock slid home at the far post to bring the scores back level again, and it was from another inviting cross, this time from the right-hand side, which saw Kon once more find the back of the net, though this time at the wrong end as he inadvertently turned the ball into the back of his own net.
Praising Hendon, and knowing the sides still have plenty to pay for when they meet in the Cyril Anekstein Cup final, Richman says: “It would be remiss of me not to mention Hendon. Treble winners for two of the last three seasons, an exceptionally talented group who I fully hope and expect go all the way in the Morrison. They played their part in an enthralling game. They lost a lot of important players in the summer yet seem to be stronger than last year. It was a great battle with them last season and it’s been even more so this season.
“They will be looking for revenge in the cup final but we will be ready for everything they have up their sleeves, mind games and all!”
Hendon manager David Garbacz conceded the title was over, and offered his congratulations to what he described as being ‘a tremendous team’. He said: “First and foremost we want to collectively congratulate Raiders on what is now the formality of them winning the league. We gave it our best shot today, but have to concede the better team won on the day – they were too quick for us and just that little bit stronger and for us we needed everyone to perform at the top of their abilities and that just didn’t happen.
“They are a tremendous team though – every time we play them it is a pleasure and to be fair they really deserve a trophy after all they have put in over the past few seasons. We have defended our title and our treble with dignity and skill but we dropped too many silly points and ultimately our long injury list has caught up with us.”
While conceding Raiders deserved the win on the day, he was though unhappy with a couple of decisions which went against his side. He said: “It was a great game in extremely difficult conditions – a great advert for our league and we are totally gutted to have lost out. We started much the better team for the first 20 minutes but after an absolute stone wall penalty was turned down, we possibly began to fear the worst. I got into trouble a couple of weeks ago when moaning about a big decision but for this one I simply do not understand how the linesman didn’t see it. He was 10 yards away and it was so weak on his part. Overall I thought the referee was excellent and if his view was slightly blocked, the linesmans’ certainly wasn’t. It was one of two massive turning points in the game, the other one allowing them to equalise so quickly after we turned things round brilliantly at the beginning of the second half.
“If we could have settled for just five more minutes after taking the lead, we would have had them panicking big time and I’m sure we’d have gone on to win. We got caught up in the moment – gave the ball away cheaply in the middle and they were in.
“In truth after that, they finished the stronger, we had the stuffing knocked out of us and we had to chase the game knowing only a win would do.”
But knowing there’s still plenty more to play for this season, he added: “The season though is far from over for us –we’ll brush ourselves down, eat a few Matzos and the herbs will certainly taste more bitter than usual, but then we will be ready for revenge against Raiders in the Anekstein final and will be looking for a cup double in the Morrison as well.
“Today is Raiders day – congratulations once again to them and see you on 3 May.”