Spartans South Midlands League Division One:
Winslow United 0 London Lions 3
Saturday, 20 December, 2014
What has been incredibly noticeable, certainly in the last few weeks, is just how much more resilient and tougher Lions have become as a team.
Without question, this has come down to far more consistency in players’ recent commitment and availability and also a big improvement in quality, both defensively and offensively.
Having recorded a terrific 3-0 away at Stony Strafford the previous week, Lions faced another tricky and difficult away fixture at Winslow Utd. Both teams were fully aware of the stakes involved regarding the three points on offer and from the first whistle, Lions had no intention of leaving without them.
Lions defended the best they had all season, as the back five of Mario Cenolli, Zac Rose, Jake Rinsler, Nicky Landesberg and Rafa Soccairello were strong and proficient throughout. The five did their jobs with the minimum of fuss and allowed the midfield and attacking players to spring from the platform provided.
It took the visitors a good 15 minutes to get to grips with the sticky pitch, slight awkward slope and bullish nature of their opposition, but once they settled Lions were for once ruthless. They opened the scoring in the 24th minute following a Josh Kennet corner. Ping pong ensued in the Winslow box, first to react was Charlie Rubin and his strong header back into the box was latched onto by Max Kyte. The forward who is having a real purple patch right now, reacted quickest and slammed the ball home.
Lions second came 10 minutes later and the home side paid the price for a poor bit of sportsmanship. Cenolli, having seen one of the Winslow players down injured sportingly kicked the ball out so the player could receive treatment. Deciding not to return the compliment, Winslow took a quick throw and blazed an attack on the Lions goal. A great interception from Rose, released Josh Kennet down the right and his super charged run mixed in with the injustice of the unsporting behaviour of the hosts, resulted in the winger cutting into the box and smashing home a fabulous goal.
Lions were in no mood for any further gestures of good will and after a few naughty challenges from both teams the half came to a close. Rick Jacobson, Landesberg and Soccairello deserving special praise for a terrific 45 minutes full of desire, commitment and a tremendous work ethic. During the 15 minute interval Lions were gently reminded just how important the following 45 minutes were and that in no way could the levels of concentration and discipline drop.
Being two down, it was only natural for the hosts to come out all guns blazing. Lions can thank Cenolli for ensuring they kept their two-goal advantage, as he was in sensational form, pulling off two cracking saves at really crucial moments in the game. Lions themselves then wasted two good opportunities on 68 and 74 minutes to put the game to bed, before once again Cenolli was called into action, making another fine save.
The nerves were finally settled on 80 minutes, thanks to Rubin’s neat finish from super sub Sam Shooters tidy pull back, taking the wind firmly out of Winslow’s sails. In the closing seconds Kennet should have added a fourth when he burst clear, but he chose to chip the keeper from 20 yards rather than take him on and his effort went tamely wide. Two wins on the bounce and two consecutive clean sheets, amazing what can be achieved with a little bit more commitment from everyone.
Summing up the side’s win, manager Tony Gold said: “We have seen a noticeable change in the players’ attitude in the last month. We are a different animal to the one eight weeks ago. We have a greater toughness about us, more belief as a group and that has evolved due to greater player consistency.
“We also have several lads playing at the top of their games right now. Mario, Max, Andy, Rafa and Josh have to be fair been very consistent all season. What he have nurtured and are now seeing is arguably the two best young up and coming Jewish full-backs in the country, and no, that isn’t an exaggeration. Zac Rose and Jake Rinsler have developed tremendously in the last six months. They both have a great appetite for the game, both have great attitudes and are a pleasure to work with, they take on board every detail and you would be hard pushed to find two better 18-year-olds playing this level or the level above.
“Rick Jacobson has also been a breath of fresh air since arriving from Australia and stepping out of Sunday football. Another individual who brings great energy, and is also a pleasure to work with, he’s very grounded and has the personality you want around your dressing room.
“The down side is that due to Christmas and New Year, we now have an abundance of players away which is a real shame as we were starting to hit a nice purple patch. The difficult times in football always make you appreciate the good times and today was a nice and fully deserved early Christmas present, which will be enjoyed by everyone involved with the club. Merry Christmas and a very happy and healthy New Year to everyone at London Lions, here is to 2015.”