HERTS COUNTY CUP QUARTER-FINALS
LONDON LIONS MASTERS 3 BELSTONE 0
Lions Masters quickly extinguished the disappointment of bowing out of the league cup last week with an excellent win over much fancied Belstone, conqueror's of Garston in the last round, to progress to the semi-final of the prestigious Herts County Cup.
Losing Andy Miller to injury and Andy Myers to illness within 24 hours of kick-off was hardly ideal, but it was still a squad with plenty about them that took the field. Danny Piler came in at left-back with Jon Rayner partnering Paul Linger in the heart of the defence and Paul Buxton slotting in at right full-back to make up a back four that protected Jacobs excellently throughout. Matty Kleinman and Danny Reuben both excelled in controlling the tempo of the match allowing combinations of Pearl, Adam Kaye, Paul Lenchner, Hadley Silver and Brad Lazarus to do their thing further up the field.
Belstone are a tough, competitive and experienced side and were out of the blocks quickly, closing down Lions and trying to force the play. They were a threat from crosses and set-plays, but Dan Jacobs dealt well with the high balls into the box. They did though have a couple of openings when careless Lions play gifted possession in bad areas, but thankfully their pacy marksmen couldn't get his feet right at crucial times allowing Lions off the hook.
And from here Lions began to play. The outstanding Linger was not just winning ball, but was then using it well to spring the home side forward. Lazarus and Silver started to get more and more involved, the former coming closest to breaking the deadlock when in trademark style he killed a through ball and thumped a half volley goalwards from a tight angle that the keeper parried to safety.
Lions were working hard to press the game, and that pressure brought reward on the half hour when Silver robbed the right-back and forced his way clear before, cool as you like, giving the keeper the eye and slotting home.
Lions' joy was doubled just five minutes later when Silver again found himself in the clear. With no flag he drove goalwards and drew the keeper before squaring unselfishly for Kaye to apply the finishing touch.
Lions expected an onslaught at the start of the second half which duly came as Belstone upped their game and became more and more physical. Lions though stood up to the test, Piler and Ranaan Firmin calmness personified at full-back while Rayner, having an outstanding game of his own, was only outshone by his partner Linger as the back four presented a wall to their opponents. Reuben was having his best game of the season too, so when ball was won he ensured it was well used making the hosts a real threat on the break.
A couple of flags thwarted Lions while Lenchner and Lazarus both had chances. The pace of Kaye was always a threat, and his non-stop hard work was rewarded when he fashioned himself a goal of the highest order. Receiving Linger's pass on half way he expertly spun his marker and was away. Sprinting 40 yards he then showed great composure in rounding the keeper before firing home a clinical finish from a tight angle despite the best efforts of two men on the line.
The game was up, and Pearl nearly added a fourth with a dipping volley from 35 yards that landed on the roof of the net before Kaye again broke clear but this time failed to either find the on-rushing Lazarus or the far corner.
A tough game that ended with a pleasing result and a berth in the semi-final against opposition they'll find out in the next couple of weeks.
Back to league action for the final three matches in December starting with Neil Shipperley's Greenford side this Sunday.
Lions: Dan Jacobs, Jon Rayner, Paul Buxton, Dan Piler, Andrew Myers, Paul Linger, Matt Kleinman, Dan Reuben, Bradley Lazarus, Craig Pearl, Hadley Silver, Paul Lenchner, Adam Kaye
Goals: Hadley Silver, Adam Kaye (2)
Star Man: Paul Linger