SPARTAN SOUTH MIDLANDS PREMIER DIVISION
AFC DUNSTABLE 3 LONDON LIONS 1
London Lions tasted defeat for the second time in the space of four days losing 3-1 away to AFC Dunstable.
Lions were forced into several changes from Saturday’s defeat at Leverstock Green with Sam Reeves and David Soutar missing out this time through injury and Michael Sacks, Mario Cenolli and Jordan Marks either away or on work commitments. Tomer Sherman took the number one shirt, Jake Gottlieb was back from suspension, Jamie Nagioff made his first team debut and Ben Lauffer made a welcome return to add some much needed experience to a very inexperienced midfield. Harry Hatchwell and Nicky Lewis made up the Lions bench.
The pitch at AFC Dunstable was perfect and it offered a great opportunity for both sides to play football.
This really was a game of two half’s but it goes without saying that Lions paid the price for a terrible start for which they never fully recovered.
For the first 30 minutes the visitors just were not at the races, a yard off the pace and void of any ideas Lions were mauled. AFC Dunstable scored three goals which when broken down came from Lions inability to compete and concentrate at crucial moments.
Again those lapses in concentration, individual mistakes and a lack of belief contributed to a horrendous 30 minute period which looked as if would spiral into a far more disconcerting situation if something drastic wasn’t done.
A change in formation 15 minutes before the break from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2 and arguably AFC Dunstable easing off thinking the game was won, saw Lions gradually begin to settle and get some kind of foothold in the game. Once a sense of calm was restored throughout the team, Lions started to look like a football team.
Following the half-time interval Lions came out a completely different team. A side that suddenly contained self belief and much needed exuberance. Had Lions started the first-half like they started and finished the second, then perhaps the result would have been very different.
On 65 minutes TJ Keterman and Jamie Nagioff were replaced with Nicky Lewis and Harry Hatchwell.
On 72 minutes Hatchwell pulled a goal back for Lions, following a decent exchange of passes between Ben Ellis and Ben Joseph. The latter found Hatchwell who was clinical from 18 yards.
For the remaining 18 minutes Lions battered their hosts and if it wasn’t for some exceptional goalkeeping Lions could have nicked a point or even taken all three.
The first save was a brilliant tip over the bar from a fierce Adam Bolle curling shot and the second incredible save was down low to the keeper’s right where he managed to divert the ball wide. Bolle then hit the crossbar from a thunder bolt shot. Bolle certainly deserved more from his endevours.
It was a crazy 18 minute period which had the home team management pulling their hair out.
As it was, Lions paid the ultimate price for a very poor start to the game and have learnt another valuable lesson, you can’t give sides in this division three goal head starts!
Lions manager Tony Gold gave an honest assessment of his sides efforts, saying: "I asked the lads to line up slightly differently tonight so that we would be harder to break down knowing the attacking force AFC Dunstable possessed, I suspect it had a detrimental effect given our first 30 minutes as certain individuals looked bemused as to what was asked of them even though they seemed perfectly with it in the pre-match teamtalk.
"In hindsight I was asking too much and in future it will best to just keep things simple, the majority of the current squad are not ready to deal with the complexities of certain tactics.
"After a dire first 30 minutes where we lost the game the lads can take heart, especially from a gutsy second-half performance. However, we only upped our work rate and endevour to levels they should have been at from the start. I also felt AFC Dunstable took their foot off and football isn’t a game you can turn on and off like a tap. They relaxed at 3-0 and once we stepped it up they couldn’t get that momentum back.
"We know we have to start quicker, and we know we have to work harder and that will come in time. At the moment the reality is crystal clear, no disrespect to any of the lads but we have several players that are simply playing at a level which is a step too far for them on many levels, so it is paramount that those players make up for the lack of ability by giving 100 per cent effort, I felt they did that second half.
"I am hoping in the coming weeks I can bring back some much needed quality and experience into the team but players have got to want to play and give the commitment needed at this level to do so."
Lions: Tomer Sherman, Ricky Engleman, Jake Gottlieb (sub: Tony Gold), Nicky Landesberg, Jamie Nagioff (sub: Harry Hatchwell), Adam Myeroff, Ben Lauffer, Ben Joseph, TJ Keterman (sub: Nicky Lewis), Ben Ellis, Adam Bolle
Scorer: Harry Hatchwell