GARSTON VETS LEAGUE
LONDON LIONS 1 MET POLICE 1
A late strike from Bradley Lazarus earned London Lions a point in a high quality affair in which they demonstrated how far they've progressed in recent weeks when they took champions Met Police all the way, eventually securing a score draw and their first ever points against one of the top two sides.
Although wet in places, the top pitch at Rowley Lane was in perfect condition for a match between two footballing sides. MP boast several ex-pros in their ranks and other's who played their football in the upper echelons of non-league.
Buoyed though by the previous week's cup win Lions though entered the game in confident mood. Paul Linger came in to partner Andy Myers at centre back, with Jon Rayner filling the right-back slot as Marc Greene is out until January with a slipped disc. With Craig Henry at left-back, and the four well screened by Matty Kleinman and Danny Reuben, the Lions rearguard excelled throughout against Police's constant threat. Linger's reading of the game and Myers' typical all action display particularly stood out.
Make no mistake, this was anything but one-way traffic, and in truth it was the hosts who settled quickest. Crisp two-touch passing saw them get their runners between the Police lines, Brad Lazarus finding room for three early strikes from range that all found the target, albeit none really troubling the keeper. Paul Lenchner was working hard to hold the ball up and bring in the likes of Andy Miller and Max Radford, the latter coming close on the quarter hour but, having done the hard work in creating a yard for himself, screwed his effort wide of the post.
The visitors though began to play, ex-Fulham player Gus Hurdle denied only by an excellent finger-tip stop from Lions keeper Danny Jacobs. And Lions were indebted to their no. 1 twice more before the break as the Police finished the half the stronger, although he had to thank his near post for keeping out a header from Lions old boy Tony Gold.
The second half remained an even affair. On the hour mark both sides had great chances to take the lead. From a corner the visitors had a free header from six yards that was powered at goal only for Jacobs to be in the right place to pull off a superb block before Hadley Silver, who was becoming a more influential player by the minute, got free down the left and drove in a superb ball that neither Lazarus or Lenchner at full stretch could quite get on the end of. More fine play from Silver saw him free Miller. He drew his man and laid off for the on-rushing Lazarus, but his fierce strike was dragged wide.
As the game edged towards the last 15 minutes, the Police finally made the breakthrough. A good advantage was played by the ref as Linger and Hurdle clashed, the ball finding it's way to Currie who capitalised on the gap to drive into the area and strike home. In the past this would have signalled a late Lions collapse, but not this time. They kept pushing forward and were rewarded five minutes from time. Kleinman won the ball in midfield, Miller took it on and fed Silver. Again he beat his man and crossed towards Lenchner. The ball nicked off the defender into the path of Lazarus whose first touch killed the ball, his second dispatching a rocket of a strike across the keeper, nestling into the net off the far post. A great finish.
Both teams pushed for a winner, Police though coming closest when first Kleinman executed an outstanding goal-saving challenge before, from the resulting corner, Jacobs showed superb reflexes in clawing away a deflected goalbound header. But the final whistle went with neither side able to secure all the points.
All seemed to agree a draw was a fair result, but there's no doubt Lions went home the happier, knowing now that they have a side that can push these top teams all the way.
LML: Dan Jacobs, Craig Henry, Jon Rayner, Andy Myers, Paul Linger, Andy Miller, Paul Buxton, Dan Reuben, Matt Kleinman, Paul Miller, Paul Lenchner, Bradley Lazarus, Max Radford, Hadley Silver
Goal: Bradley Lazarus
Man-of-the-match: Dan Jacobs