SPARTAN SOUTH MIDLANDS LEAGUE RESERVE DIVISION ONE
OXHEY JETS 1 LONDON LIONS RESERVES 1
A much-changed Lions side battled their way to a hard-earned point at Oxhey Jets in this top of the table clash, a point that only time will tell if a good one for either side in their quest for the title.
It was a shame that this clash was scheduled for a midweek as it saw both sides forced to use their squads to the max. For Lions, this saw a debut in goal for the impressive Tomer Sherman, a return for James Stanley at right back, a start for veteran, first-team boss Tony Gold at left back while Ben Lampert, as always, and the excellent Jeremy Julius worked tirelessly to support Dan Green up front.
With new personnel it was no surprise that it took a while for the game to settle. Offensively, both teams struggled to retain the ball - Lions' back-line were outstanding from the off in nullifying the physical threat offered by Oxhey's no. 9, while James Stanley excelled in keeping their lively left-winger relatively quiet. At the heart of the defence Frank Hyman was back to his best while Laurence Judah, aside from one kamikaze moment late in the half, put in a man-of-the-match performance. All the while Frank Sherman collected anything in his box with authority and bailed Judah out of his error with a brave stop at the striker's feet.
Slowly Lions began to get into the game with Ben Lauffer and Aron Barnes getting a measure of control in the tightly contested midfield area, allowing George Fierstone to try and get Lions firing. Whilst Green was finding life tough, Julius was using his skill and pace to create the odd opening. He served warning, latching on to Fierstone's delightful pass and delivering a peach of a cross that was deserving of a finishing touch. When the two combined on the half hour Julius again tricked his way to the byline and pulled back. Barnes saw his shot charged down but reacted quickly to poke the ball back to Julius who drilled home first time from eight yards.
Jets, to their credit, reacted well to this setback and imposed themselves on the game for 10 minutes, albeit without troubling Sherman too much. Minutes before the break though they equalised in somewhat fortuitous circumstances. Awarded a highly debateable free kick 25 yards out, so much so that Barnes was booked for his protests, Jets took full advantage. The attempted strike on goal was stubbed into the ground by the striker, his mis-hit though turning into a perfect pass that was diverted past Sherman for the leveller.
The second half continued to be a hard fought affair, with no quarter given. Lions received a blow when Stanley dislocated his shoulder again barely five minutes after the interval (update - took a while to be re-located by the doctors but James is OK) which saw a debut for Danny Hakimi. Strong and tough he settled in well and will be well satisfied with his evening's work. Green ran hard but continued to struggle to hold the ball up, but with no attacking options he was forced to knuckle down for the 90. Adam Hakimi was introduced as Lions pushed Barnes further forward as they sought to try and find a winner, but in truth other than a couple of snap shots didn't overly trouble the Jets keeper.
Hyman and Judah continued their fine work, ably helped out by Hakimi and Gold, but it took a fine save from Sherman to ensure a share of the spoils, flying at full stretch to his right to expertly parry to safety a goal bound free kick. Try as they might neither side was able to find a winner and a point each their reward for a tough evening's work in front of a decent crowd.
With several still missing at the weekend Lions will need a performance of equal endeavour if they're to build on this showing. With seven games to go the side know they need a run of wins now to ensure the last two matches at Hadley and Stotfold will be games that really matter. They can ill afford any slip ups ...
Lions Reserves: Tomer Sherman, Laurence Judah, Frank Hyman, Tony Gold, Aron Barnes, Jeremy Julius, James Stanley (sub: Danny Hakimi), Ben Lauffer, George Fierstone, Ben Lampert (sub: Adam Hakimi), Dan Green
Man-of-the-match: Laurence Judah