MGBSFL PREMIER DIVISION
NORSTAR LONDON RAIDERS A 2 OAKWOOD A 1
Norstar London Raiders A completed their league season with a 2-1 victory in a superb match against Oakwood at the Ark Academy.
Another strike from David Dinkin plus an own goal helped Phil Peters' men record their 14th league win and finish on 45 points.
Knowing that a win could be enough to secure the title, Norstar knew that nothing less would be acceptable but it was the visitors who had the first chance of the match winning a free-kick on the edge of the box straight from kick off which was well struck but held comfortably by the outstanding Jake Doffman.
This momentary scare was enough for the home side to up their game and play some of their best football of the season. Despite missing several players, Norstar’s pace attack of Josh Green, Ethan Zone and Matt Stock contrived to terrorise the Oakwood backline, but surprisingly it was David Dinkin who outpaced his marker down the right wing and delivered a pinpoint cross to Matt Stock whose trickery in the box forced his defender into putting the ball into his own net.
It was a moment of magic that doubled the league leader’s advantage a few minutes later. Picking up the ball on the left wing, speedster Zone skipped past his full-back and played the ball into the feet of Dinkin who took one step to set himself and curled the ball from 25-yards into the top corner of the net, the keeper failing to move until after the ball had whizzed past him.
If Raiders were expecting the second half to be as comfortable then they were in for a nasty shock. A revitalised Oakwood side took the field and immediately began to cause problems although Doffman and his defence were dealing with everything that was thrown at them.
Fifteen minutes into the half, Raiders captain David Rhodes was forced off through injury and Oakwood sniffed an opportunity, playing some excellent football and moving the ball fluently in the final third. Brad Wine scored a fine goal to halve the deficit as the visitors continued to push for an equaliser that would have broken the hearts of the home supporters.
When Wine glanced a header wide in the final moments it looked like Raiders were going to secure win nine out of nine for the calendar year and complete their league campaign in the best possible fashion and as the final whistle was blown the sheer delight and elation was clear on the faces of the players as attentions turned to Paddington and news of the Hendon result.
Six points for their challengers in the double-header did little to dampen the mood at the Ark where the curtain was brought down on a fantastic league campaign.
Proud manager Phil Peters told JC Sport: "45 points from 18 games is a fantastic return and far beyond our pre-season expectations where we were aiming for a top-half finish.
"Whilst that should be enough, Hendon are the only team in the MSFL capable of mounting such a comeback and if they manage to do it then it will mark a horrific three-months of sleepless nights and tortuous Sunday mornings.
"We hope that the teams with little to play for will still be trying to raise their games when they play Hendon and be the team that denies them the title – it seems that the ‘anyone-but-Hendon’ club is growing and the Chairman’s upped his offer to an all-expenses paid trip to FYEO if Redbridge manage to do the business in three-weeks’ time.
"But I don’t want to end talking about them. This season’s been all about us and whatever happens it’s been an absolutely magnificent campaign. But it’s not over yet – a semi-final and a quarter-final await us and we hope to give the Chairman the trophies he’s been craving by the time the cups are given out at the beginning of May."
Oakwood joint-manager Ric Blank told JC Sport: "Despite an impressive second-half performance, we didn't do enough to beat a solid Norstar side. We started the game well enough, but conceded out of the blue. From that point on our first-half performance was nowhere near good enough.
"We lost Levine to injury after half an hour and things went from bad to worse as Dinkin was given the freedom of the park to slot one in the top corner.
"We weren't working hard enough or playing our football. We had strong words at half time and came out a different side. We totally dominated the game and pulled one back through Brad Wine.
"Dan Geey stood in at centre half and was magnificent. We were a different side with him. We pressed for the equaliser and were denied two stonewall penalties.
"It was a different Oakwood, but one I'd like to see from the start as opposed to when the game is seemingly lost. I think sometimes we're obsessed by names on paper - both our own team and the opposition. We need to learn that unless our-touch, passing and work-rate is of a high standard for 90 minutes names and reputations count for nothing. It's on the players to put in high-level performances to win the big games.
"We cannot carry any man. We're lucky in that we get another crack at a really good Norstar side (who are rightly going to be crowned champions) in two weeks time. We'll leave that for now and focus on Camden. If we win that we can start talking about Prem football next season."