Four out of four for red-hot Raiders
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Norstar London Raiders A’s dream start to the season continued with a resounding win over much-fancied Brady Maccabi A that extended their lead at the top of the table to five points.
Having lost captain David Rhodes to a groin injury and central midfielders Jonny Kay and Adam Joselyn to New York and Benalmadena respectively, Raiders manager Phil Peters had the opportunity to welcome Josh Pistol, Elliot Espinoza and Oli Henry back into the starting line-up after they all passed fitness tests on Thursday night.
The first half was a fairly even affair with both sides defending well and limiting each other to speculative long shots, Raiders’ David Dinkin going closest hitting the stanchion with a curling effort from the corner of the penalty box.
But it was Brady who drew first blood when Richard Baum was tripped inside the penalty box by Dan Grossman who was lucky to escape without further punishment in what was an otherwise excellent performance. Michael Kenley stepped up to give the visitors the lead, with Jake Doffman unable to pull off a repeat of his recent penalty-saving heroics.
Peters demanded an instant reaction and was nearly gifted it as Matt Stock went close after a devilish run down the Raiders right straight from the kick-off.
The second half started brightly for Raiders in what was to be a sign of things to come. Dinkin continued to create chances for himself and those around him – his link-up play with Adam Jason suggesting that their partnership might be one to watch this season. Jason looked lively throughout striking the crossbar twice – the first a stinging shot that the goalkeeper was nowhere near, the second an outstanding fingertip save.
Raiders continued to wear Brady down with some slick passing and great wing play with Stock and Ethan Zone causing plenty of trouble both down the flanks and drifting inside. The decisive moment came on the hour mark when Henry was brought down on the edge of the Brady box after firing a shot over the bar. Dinkin stepped up and put the ball over the wall and into the top corner for the equaliser, which despite Sam Singer’s best attempts to keep it out was sportingly awarded by the Brady’s linesman.
Forced into a substitution, Alex Bloch replaced the injured Henry with the magnificent Rob Blackman moved into the midfield and from then on Raiders did not look back. The home side pushed on and continued to turn the screw, benefiting from the fresh legs that they were able to bring on in the shape of Jamie Wolfson and Josh Green.
Indeed it was Wolfson who provided the assist for what turned out to be the winning goal, drifting in a beautiful free kick for Stock to break free and head home into the bottom corner of the net.
It was an excellent performance all-round from a side who looked confident throughout and deserved of their place at the top of the division; both sides were missing a number of key personnel but it was Raiders who dealt with it better and had higher fitness levels and greater fluidity that was at times missing in Brady’s build-up play.
Peters was delighted with his team’s performance but has told the players and the fans not to get ahead of themselves: "Obviously I am very pleased with a fourth win in a row, but there is still a long, long way to go this season.
"We have shown in the last few weeks how much we have developed as a squad over the pre-season and how hard we have made ourselves to beat. Today things started to click in the final third and if it wasn’t for Sam’s magnificent performance in the Brady goal we could have had five or six.
"We had arguably the two best young goalkeepers in Jewish football on show today as well as exciting young talent on both teams with Jake Rinsler excelling in the heart of Brady’s defence and Ethan preventing Brady’s usually potent left-side from getting a hold on the game. Anyone watching the game yesterday would surely agree that the rumours of Jewish football’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.
"We move on to face Hendon next week. I read in last week’s preview that they only had nine players for Sunday so to win and score 17 goals is a great achievement. Just think how comfortable the victory might have been if they had managed to get 11 on the pitch. We’ll be aiming to make things a little bit tougher for them next week but for now we’ll keep working and enjoying our football."
Brady joint-manager Joel Nathan told JC Sport: "I'm disappointed with today's result but we were missing our spine today in Matt Sofier, Josh Gordon and Jonny Ellis. The young boys did well but the former combined with a couple of others who were unavailable today made it a difficult task against a team who are unbeaten.
"The good thing is we have a chance to bounce back next week against Lions and will be ready for the big local derby."