Redbridge A manager Jon Jacobs saw his side inflict an opening day defeat against the reigning Premier Division champions – before insisting his team will be the side to beat this season.
Two goals from James Berkley, along with Russell Goldstein’s strike saw the East Londoners claim a thrilling 3-2 win at the Ark Academy, with Jacobs telling jewishnews.co.uk: “Has this sent a message out to the rest of the division that we’ll be the team to beat? – We’ve always been the team to beat, we [now] just have to keep solid and take each game on its merits.
“We gave a lifeline to Raiders today and still had the mental strength to go again and win with a moment of pure gold and true to his promise, Sam Sollosi delivered a mesmerising run to win the game for us with a slide-rule pass for the easy finish by James.”
Going into the game, Redbridge had been battling all week to bring in new signings, but all options had come to nothing and they were further weakened when Adam Hakimi failed a last minute fitness test pitch side .
The visitors viewed the reigning champions as a team to respect, but not fear and with the Sollosi’s and the unsung hero, James Berkley running the midfield, the game began with Redbridge in the ascendency.
Play was being dominated in central midfield, as both teams seemed intent on playing football, though Raiders liked to play a long cross field pass to try and catch out the defence.
Raiders took the lead when a sloppy pass in the centre of midfield wasn’t picked up by Goldstein, Raiders got the ball forward at pace and there was a smart finish by Matt Stock, who played the ball past the on-rushing Jaffa in the Redbridge goal.
The goal unsettled Redbridge for 10 minutes, but they were given a lifeline by a goal of real quality with a great run and finish by the atoning Goldstein.
Redbridge were moving through the gears and took the lead just before half-time, a loopy and high corner from Sam Sollosi met with a bullet of a header from Berkley into the Raiders net .
The shape of the team was good and captain Danny Hakimi was emphasising how important it was to keep the discipline and shape.
Raiders found their way back into the goal with a simple but smart finish by Jordan Marks who had moved to the other side of the pitch to keep away from bulldog and evergreen Craig Sandford.
Raiders then turned up the heat for 10 minutes of play, but couldn’t create any real chances with good defensive work from a Redbridge backline of Sandford, Cole, Neiman and captain Danny Hakimi.
With around 20 minutes left, Sam Sollosi picked up the ball on the Redbridge right and went on a mesmerising run that must have taken out at least four Raiders players – who could still well be dizzy from the run – before laying on a simple finish for Berkley to slot home the winner to cap off a moment of pure gold.
Reflecting back on the game, Jacobs said: “No doubt we deserved the win and although an open game, the win could have been more emphatic. The better team won on the day, we carried more threat offensively
“I also thought that defensively, the holding midfield play of Sam McCarthy allowed the stars to flourish, plus our defence with the old stalwarts of Sandford and Danny Hakimi, with the youth of debut boy Zack Neiman and Ryan Cole was superb as a unit.”
Elaborating on what he thought was the difference between the sides over the 90 minutes, he said: “We just had too much for them. We won as we had a front six that Raiders couldn’t cope with. We didn’t have a proper centre forward today and yet, we created so many chances.”
However, not getting too carried away, he added: “The boys don’t need anything more for their confidence [what this result could do], but it’s only one game and we have to ensure that we build on this going into our next game against Oakwood.”