Norstar London Raiders A booked their place in the cup semi-final, overcoming a spirited Los Blancos to record a comfortable 4-1 victory at Brunel University.
Cyril Anekstein Cup Quarter-Final
Los Blancos 1 Norstar London Raiders A 4
Sunday, 26 January, 2014
Blancos’ initial tactic of choosing the worst pitch in the capital as a ‘leveller’ was thwarted by the treacherous weather conditions and so instead they were forced into the next best alternative of bus parking, with the perpetually lively Jono Gaon left to feed of scraps on the few occasions the ball found its way out of the league leaders’ half.
Having narrowly beaten the Raiders C and B team in previous rounds of the cup, Blancos were hopeful of securing the unlikeliest of trebles and whilst they lacked the adventure of their Premier Division opponents, their defensive resilience was admirable with outstanding performances from Benjy Israel and Yaakov Suissa in particular.
Despite holding strong for half an hour, Raiders were to forge ahead in devastating fashion with a surging run and one-two from the returning Josh Morris at right-back ending up with the ball lashed into the roof of the net, despite the best efforts of the linesman to have it ruled out for offside.
With both teams having agreed to move straight to penalties in the event of a tie, the 1-0 score line was not likely to be enough and despite knocking on the Blancos door on multiple occasions, former-Raider Nick Grosse pulled off a string of remarkable saves to keep his new side in the game.
Midway through the half, Blancos were to score the unlikeliest of equalisers when completely against the run of play, Jono Gaon picked up the ball 30-yards out and struck the ball sweetly past the unsuspecting Jake Doffman in the Raiders goal, the former Norstar player thinking nothing of celebrating against his former club.
Raiders had to act quickly with only twenty minutes remaining and sent on David Dinkin to provide more of a focal point to the attack. Within a minute, Raiders were back in front – this time Josh Pistol rising highest to nod in at the back post and restore the advantage.
Two soon became three with substitute Zak McLeod – strongly linked with a move to Blancos before the end of the transfer window – taking the sword to his potential new club with a 25-yard screamer that left Gross with no chance.
Matt Stock put the icing on the cake with a fourth a few minutes later, stabbing home from a corner, although the dubious goals panel might have something to say about whether in fact it should be credited to the growing ‘own goals’ column.
Manager Phil Peters was pleased with the result, saying: “I’m delighted for the boys that we’ve made it through to the cup semi-final – a first for many of them – and we can’t wait for the draw to be made.
“Blancos defended resolutely today and things could have been very different had they been able to bring some fresh legs on as it was only in the final 15 minutes that we really ran away with it.
“Credit to Nick and Jono in particular who were fantastic along with the rest of the Blancos defence who thwarted wave after wave of attack. They should have no problem staying up.
“It was great to see Josh (Morris) and Elliot (Espinoza) return to the side today after some time out and everyone is looking sharp at the moment which makes things incredibly difficult but exciting for me.”
When questioned on the strong rumour linking McLeod to Blancos, Peters said: “I don’t see a problem loaning Mcleod to Los Blancos, they are no threat.
“It’s difficult for me to leave him out of the team. And it’s difficult for him to accept the situation. He was behaving amazingly well, an example for the other boys to follow, but no happiness.
“If a similar situation happens, and instead of Los Blancos, it’s Faithfold or Hendon or Brady or Redbridge, we would do the same. If the offer was the same and Zak desired to go, it would be the same.”