RAIDERSDOUBLENorstar player-manager Rob Richman said his side saved the best for last, citing the performance they produced in beating Hendon in Sunday’s Cyril Anekstein Final as being the best they’ve played all season.

Cyril Anekstein Cup Final:
Hendon A 1 Norstar London Raiders A 3
Sunday, 3 May, 2015

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A blistering first half, which saw Liron Mannie, Jordan Marks and Matt Stock all score to give them A 3-0 half time lead, was labelled by Richman as being “undoubtedly the best we’ve played all season.” He said: “We were delighted with our first half performance, it was as good a performance as I’ve seen from my side all season. Hendon didn’t get close to us at all in the opening 45 minutes. We were calm and focused before kick-off, everyone knew their roles and we were keen to make a strong start which is exactly what we did. To be 3-0 up at half-time though was really beyond our expectations, but was testament to a really scintillating first half.

“But the most pleasing aspect was that we saved our best performance for the final when it mattered most. Everyone to a man played a part in a convincing win, it has been a squad effort all season and today really epitomised that.”

Admitting they used their 3-2 league victory over them six weeks ago as a blueprint for Sunday, Richman said: “We spoke a lot about that league game. On that day the scoreline 3-2 suggested a close game but in actual fact we were dominant and really should have won the game more comfortably.

“Our forwards that day really gave the Hendon back four a difficult morning and our aim was to try and replicate the league performance. It was one of the main reasons we picked the exact same side as the league game. David in his pre-match comments talked about us facing a ‘completely different Hendon side’ but in truth we knew it would only be a couple of changes to the side we beat in the league and that gave us a lot of confidence going into the game.”

As well as the three goals scored, it was only some terrific stops from Russell Corin in the Hendon goal that kept the scoreline down, and although Avi Korman’s diving header offered Hendon a glimmer of hope with half an hour remaining, the Premier Division champions always looked in control.

Believing the margin – and manner – of victory was down to them playing well and not Hendon being bad, Richman also says the quality of the two side’s squads has become apparent in the two recent games between the sides. “I think the difference between the two sides has been seen in the last two games quite vividly,” he says. “Whereas before this season Hendon had the better squad, we can now lay claim to being the best group of players and our talent coupled with sheer desire led us to today’s cup win.”

Hendon manager David Garbacz conceded the best side won, saying: “We can’t have any complaints about the overall result. We showed great strength of character to at least make a decent match of it in the second half but we had given ourselves much too big a mountain to climb. I’ve never seen us so out-battled and out-fought as we were in the first half and it was a combination of their excellence, but also our uncharacteristic sloppiness.”

Praising Raiders for their first half display, he said: “Whilst we could have been far better both in terms of challenging for the ball and using it properly, you do simply have to doff your caps to Raiders for that first half display. It was truly scintillating and we could not cope with their all round play. Saying that, their second goal was a freak and came at a time when we just about got a foothold on things after the start, and the third was inexcusable to leave Matt Stock one-on-one with our defender from our corner. That was a real schoolboy error and we paid dearly for it as 2-0 would have been surmountable whilst 3-0 was pretty forlorn.”

Conceding the damage had been done in that first 45 minutes, he said: “The boys were devastated at half-time and received some deserved criticism. Whilst the hairdryer wasn’t fully out, we were particularly disappointed with our level of challenge and desire and that did change dramatically after the break when we were much better. The damage was well and truly done though, but we never gave up and if we could have got one more back in the 10 minute period after we scored I’d have really fancied our chances. Alas was not to be.”

Having to now lift them for the Peter Morrison Cup Final on 17 May, he does though insist they’ll bounce back in the League next season. He said: “Norstar have been quality this season and when they can play Matt Stock, Liron Mannie, Ben Joseph and Jordan Marks all in the same team, it’s always going to be tough. I think the only time those four have played together this season have been in the two games they beat us in. We haven’t had the luxury in terms of availability but we are big enough to admit they have been better than us in these last two games and have thoroughly deserved their success.

“For us, we will re-group, there could well be some end of season changes, but Hendon will come again and will always be a huge force to be reckoned with.”

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