FA VASE FIRST QUALIFYING ROUND
LONDON LIONS 3 FC ROMANIA FC 2
London Lions produced a fantastic performance to beat high flying FC Romania 3-2 in the first qualifying round of the FA Vase.
FC Romania arrived at Hemel Hempstead in a positive frame of mind and were looking to win their eighth game out of nine in form that has seen them rise to the top of the Essex Senior League.
Lions were looking for only their second win of the season, but were in good spirits in what has been a tough week for them with the departure of Mario Cenolli and Adam Bolle.
Lions lined up with arguably their strongest squad this season. Kyle Bentwood, Jake Gottlieb, Michael Sacks, Ben Ellis, Jordan Marks and David Soutar were all available together for the first time in eight games.
Lions manager Tony Gold made a slight change to the teams formation employing Bentwood and Gottlieb as two defensive midfield players in a 4-2-3-1. Soutar had the tough job of filling Bolle’s boots in a lone role up front.
A physical, effective and good footballing FC Romania side made for a sharp contrast in styles, but nothing could have prepared them for Lions best 45 minutes of the season.
It was a game that ebbed and flowed, Lions defending superbly with Michael Sacks and Nick Landesberg winning everything thrown at them.
Then the game exploded into life with Lions taking the lead. Lions forced a corner and a great delivery from Jordan Marks was powered home by the head of Sacks.
On 29 minutes Lions went 2-0 up. This time great work from Gottlieb freed Ben Ellis down the right and his shot from 18 yards across the keeper nestled beautifully into the bottom corner of the goal.
With the bit between their teeth Lions grew in confidence and on 35 minutes they went 3-0 up. Once again the effective and dangerous Marks delivered a peach of a cross after out muscling his full back to get to the ball first, and judging his run to perfection David Soutar headed home wonderfully.
It was nothing less than the home deserved, but the Lions allowed the visitors a glimmer of hope on the stroke of half time when a cross from the left the ball was played in behind the Lions defence and the Romania forward stuck out a foot and rolled the ball past an exposed Dan Lee.
The second half proved to be less fruitful for Lions, especially in the final 20 minutes, and closing stages which were dominated by FC Romania. A bad eye injury to Soutar meant he had to replaced on 65 minutes and from that moment Lions seemed to lose their shape and discipline.
The visitors scored with 10 minutes remaining to make it a nervous finish for Lions, but the home side held out to claim a terrific 3-2 victory.
Lions boss Tony Gold praised his side’s mental strength following the victory. He said: "It's no secret at how frustrating times have been this season with one disappointment after another all compounded with Mario and Bolle leaving the club.
"Would we have won this game eight games a ago? No. But the young lads in the team are learning and getting stronger and our mental strength on Sunday and the courage we showed to keep going forward was excellent.
"Winning is a good habit to get into - if we can get a bit more consistency out of players for games and tighten up at the back and stop conceding preventable goals then who knows what we can achieve, but let’s also be realistic. Whilst a good cup run is always good, we are in the bottom four in our league and there are a lot of big clubs above us who we have yet to play. We have to start picking up points.
"If we can reproduce the kind of performance that we showed today then it bodes well."