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SPARTAN SOUTH MIDLANDS LEAGUE DIVISION 1
CODICOTE 0 LONDON LIONS 1
London Lions picked up three vital points at Codicote, with a 1-0 win that to date could be the most impressive result of their season.
Codicote’s pitch was in awful condition making it virtually impossible for Lions to produce their free-flowing passing football. It meant that the visitors were going to have to roll up their sleeves, dig deep and grind out a result which is exactly what they did.
Lions had won the two previous encounters between the sides earlier in the season but they were tight affairs with the odd goal being the deciding factor. On a rather chilly Saturday afternoon the early signs were this game was going to be very similar.
Lions travelled to Codicote without Aron Barnes, Craig Ellis and the suspended Ben Ellis. Michael Sacks was added to the squad and put in a performance that fully deserved his man-of-the-match accolade. The only other addition was that of U18 starlet Bradley Lander who was making his Saturday football debut from the bench.
Chances were few and far between in the first 45 minutes, mainly due to the terrible condition of the pitch but matters were not helped by the fact that every time the ball went out of play it took 30 seconds or more to get it back.
The home side were busy up top with good energy and movement but Guy Morris, David Souter, Guy Helman and the impressive Sacks more than matched their physical opponents.
Midway through the half Lions lost Dean Nyman through a pulled hamstring. A quick shuffle saw Guy Helman push forward in a more advanced role and Adam Myeroff come on at left-back.
The Codicote keeper was by far the busier, mainly due to the fact that he was acting more like a sweeper. Every time Lions got in over the top he was there to boot the ball forward.
Looking back on the first 45 minutes it won’t be remembered as a footballing classic. More bad news struck Lions at the break as Daniel Stanton had to be removed from play due to a ricked neck. Another change saw a solid David Souter move into midfield and Danny Berg slot into right back.
One had a feeling that only one goal was going to decide this game and with Lions in the ascendency in the first 15 minutes of the half it looked likely the goal was coming from them. It nearly arrived courtesy of Souter but his stretched header clipped the cross bar with the rebound falling nicely to Adam Bolle. Unfortunately for the usual clinical front man his tame header fell nicely and gratefully into the keeper's hands.
Codicote continued to work hard and make life difficult for the Lions but eventually that resistance was broken 20 minutes from time with Lions best move of the afternoon. Andy Glynne picked up a neat pass from Berg and spread a wonderful cross field pass out to Sloma on the Lions left. Sloma drove forward with purpose and cut a wonderful pass back to Bolle who timed his run to perfection. Not needing a second invitation Lions no. 9 crashed the ball home.
Now it was a case of all hands to the pump for the final 20 minutes or so. Codicote were then given a lifeline with 10 minutes remaining with the referee awarding them a somewhat fortuitous penalty. But cometh the hour, cometh the man. Mario Cenolli who had had a rather quite afternoon in relation to involvement stood tall and strong and pulled off a wonderful save to keep Lions clean sheet intact. It was a big moment and one that could be defining at the end of the season.
That save was the last of the heart-stopping moments for the afternoon and as the referee blew for full time Lions delivered a deserved roar as they knew just how important that win was and could turn out to be.
A delighted Lions manager Tony Gold said: "The lads put in a shift today no question about it and in my opinion got exactly what they deserved. This wasn’t a game for the purists but the pitch put an end to that, however credit must go to Codicote as well for making life very difficult for us.
"Big players win you games, I don’t normally single players out but today Michael Sacks and Mario Cenolli were immense. Sacksy was faultless today and Mario having not had a great impact on the game did what all great keepers do pull it out when it matters.
"The team should take huge confidence from this result and performance. It wasn’t pretty but we showed today we can win ugly if we are at it and switched on, who knows just how important this win will prove to be come the end of the season."
Lions: Mario Cenolli, David Soutar, Guy Helman (sub: Danny Berg), Michael Sacks, Guy Morris, Andy Glynne, Josh Kennet, Daniel Stanton (sub: Adam Myeroff), Dean Nyman (sub: Bradley Lander), Sam Sloma, Adam Bolle
Scorer: Adam Bolle
Man-of-the-match: Michael Sacks