SPARTAN SOUTH MIDLANDS LEAGUE DIVISION ONE
HARPENDEN TOWN 0 LONDON LIONS 1
A strike from defender Michael Sacks saw London Lions record a crucial 1-0 away win at high flying Harpenden Town to maintain maximum pressure on Hoddesdon and Cockfosters in the chase for promotion.
The trip to Harpenden was Lions fifth game in eight days, and having picked up an excellent point against Cockfosters two days earlier it was vital Lions left Harpenden with something.
Lions lined up strongly against a tough, dogged and physical Harpenden Town side that have been in the top four all season.
Earlier in the season Lions lost 1-0 to their hosts in what was also a very tight affair so the visitors had it all to do.
The Harpenden pitch was hard and uneven and Lions were certainly going to have to adapt to the conditions. The first 15 minutes saw both sides settle into a rhythm; Harpenden attempted to take advantage of long throws into the Lions box which the visitors defended superbly. In fact the Lions back four had not looked so solid for a long time. Guy Morris and Michael Sacks were outstanding in the centre, supported superbly by Jake Gottlieb and Guy Helman in the full-back areas.
In truth, Mario Cenolli in the Lions goal had very little to do but his concentration had to be spot on when a series of long throws were being fed into the Lions box.
Harpenden probably had the best and only meaningful effort of the half when their no. 8 shot wide just outside the box unopposed.
Lions continued to work hard and Ben Ellis and Josh Kennet always looked dangerous and a threat on the counter.
Top-scorer Adam Bolle had the best effort of the half for the Lions, but his swivel-shot just eluded the far post.
This was always going to be a game settled by one moment of magic or one defensive mistake. In the second half Lions stepped up the tempo and for the first 20 minutes created several great chances to take the lead - Josh Kennet, Sam Sloma, Bolle and Ben Ellis all seeing efforts narrowly miss the target.
Then on 72 minutes Lions struck to open the scoring. Sloma’s corner was delivered invitingly and Sacks rose like a salmon to head the ball home. It was a tremendous header under severe pressure and a goal Lions fully deserved.
With Lions in the ascendency they continued to dominate and in truth a few minutes before the end Kennet had a chance to wrap things up. With the Harpenden keeper going up for a corner, Lions won possession back sending Kennet clear. With an open goal at his mercy he rushed the shot from 40 yards and the ball rolled wide.
The referee added four minutes injury time which Lions played out to record a fabulous win and win three important points.
Lions manager Tony Gold said: "I'm delighted with the last eight days, especially the effort and performances of my players.
"This was the fifth game in eight days against a top six side and we have taken 11 out of 15 points. My players have been physically and mentally challenged on all levels and they continue to deliver.
"It has been a pivotal week but all that hard will count for nothing unless we beat Langford on Monday and and Welwyn Garden City on Wednesday.
"Today was one of our top five performances of the season, especially from a defensive point of view. Harpenden is never an easy place to come to. They are physically one of the strongest teams in the league and their pitch is always difficult to play on."
Lions: Mario Cenolli, Jake Gottlieb, Guy Helman, Michael Sacks, Guy Morris (capt), Josh Kennet, Dan Stanton, Craig Ellis, Ben Ellis, Sam Sloma, Adam Bolle
Goal: Sam Sloma
Man of the match: Michael Sacks