GARSTON LEAGUE CUP
AMERSHAM TOWN 2 LONDON LIONS 1
London Lions bowed out of the League Cup after going down against Amersham Town in a match in which they more than played their part in, but they were eventually were made to pay for two early errors.
With Paul Miller away and Matt Kleinman only able to arrive after kick-off, Lions were pleased to welcome back Richard Baum. Paul Linger and Andy Myers were reunited at centre half, with Jon Rayner and Craig Henry at full-back and Paul Buxton playing slightly deeper and having an excellent game in so doing. With Danny Reuben's "hamstring a bit tight", Hadley Silver dropped into midfield with Max Radford, Brad Lazarus and Paul Lenchner tasked with providing the attacking threat.
Unfortunately, for 15 minutes Lions did little attacking. A sloppy start saw the hosts gift possession to their opponents far too cheaply as a succession of poor touches and bad decisions allowed Amersham to dictate.
Having survived an early scare, Lions were not so lucky second time round. Rayner came across but his clearance was intercepted and an instant through pass was latched onto in a flash and despatched with venom into the far corner.
Lions responded, and Lazarus had the ball in the net only for the linesman's flag to intervene, but in truth Amersham still seemed in control. Dan Jacobs was at full stretch to turn round the post another fierce drive, but he was powerless to prevent Lions falling two behind when Linger had his pocket picked and the forward struck home into the top corner; another sweet finish.
Kleinman was introduced, and almost immediately his energy and competitiveness, coupled with the doggedness and commitment of Buxton, finally started to get Lions a footing in the game. Lazarus was seeing more of the ball, Lenchner and Radford just the wrong side of one expert cross before a superb team move released Lenchner, but a late and seemingly wrong flag put paid to what would have been a great goal.
Buxton then saw a long-range effort palmed over before a knock down from a free-kick again found the Lions man, this time in space just 10 yards out. But the bouncing ball wouldn't sit kindly, and his attempted lob only found the roof of the net. This was better from Lions.
So while disappointed by the scoreline, the message at half time was that the side were starting to play well and were by no means out of it. And so it proved as Lions put in a second half that was as good as anything they've played. Silver became the most influential player on the park, providing an attacking outlet that had the visitors on the back foot. With Buxton and Kleinman continuing to provide an excellent screen it allowed Rayner to press on and for Baum to really take control.
The passing was crisp, the commitment fulsome and chances were being fashioned. After great skill got him a yard, two Silver crosses needed last gasp blocks to deny Lazarus. Baum saw an effort cleared off the line before, on the hour, Lions got the goal their play warranted, and a fine goal it was too. Baum collected from Linger and drove goalwards. Lenchner dragged a defender away so Baum strode on, skipping past three desperate challenges before firing across the keeper into the far corner. Game on.
As Lions pressed they left some gaps, but some fine defending kept Amersham at bay. They of course did manage some sights of goal, but a string of outstanding saves from an inspired Jacobs ensured that right up to the final moment Lions were in the match.
With injury time entered Lions worked the ball to create an opening, but a heavy touch and then a slip by Radford saw the last real chance escape them and this time on the break Amersham sealed the win as although Jacobs again saved expertly, Linger lost the ball as he tried to release one last attack and that, as they say, was that.
Lions player-manager Dan Jacobs said: "This was not the result we wanted, but another really enjoyable game against quality opposition to whom we wish luck in the semi-finals.
"For Lions it's County Cup quarter-final action next week at home to an extremely strong Belstone side, so a performance like the last hour will be needed if they're to compete."