CYRIL ANEKSTEIN CUP SEMI-FINAL
NORSTAR LONDON RAIDERS A 2 OAKWOOD A 1
Phil Peters says NLR executed their game-plan to perfection as they stayed on course for the treble after edging past Premier Division rivals Oakwood to set up a final against Hendon at Wingate.
Wolfson put NLR ahead and Stock doubled the lead after some sloppy defending. Brad Wine pulled one back a minute from time, but the league leaders held on.
Alex Koslover missed the best chance right at the death to take the game to extra-time.
Peters told JC Sport: "Today was another epic in the likely four-part series between ourselves and Oakwood this season, and for the third time in a row we emerged victorious thanks to a brilliant performance and an almost perfectly-executed game-plan.
"It was exactly the match we were expecting and both sides cancelled each other out in the first half. When you have players like Wolfson and Stock in your side you know that if you lay the foundations, the magic moments are going to come and our performance yesterday typified our season to date."
"Two moments of genius from Jamie Wolfson and Matt Stock will grab the headlines but we were heroic today across the pitch and fully deserve our place in the final."
Dejected joint-manager Ric Blank felt the luck went against Oakwood on the day. He told JC Sport: "Losing a semi-final is worse than a final in many ways and this really hurt. We had a game-plan that was working perfectly, but we lost the game's best player to illness shortly after half-time. Sam Jacobson had been in total control at the back and losing him was bad news. Two weeks ago we lost Levine after 20 minutes and now Jacobson at a crucial time in the game. We were lucky to have a player of Ilan Scorah's talent waiting in the wings, but it was a blow nonetheless.
"The game changed with the first goal and in my eyes it shouldn't have been allowed. A clear and blatant shove on Dan Geey in the middle of the park allowed Raiders to break with Wolfson finishing nicely. Just like that the game had changed. We can't understand why the referee didn't give the foul. One guy goes up for a header, wins the header, the other shoves him in the back - no foul. It's hard for us to take. In such a close game the first goal was always going to be huge. There were a series of decisions that went against us that we just couldn't understand. In a semi-final we just hope for some consistency and we didn't get it. It's tough to take.
"We went two down when we gave the ball away carelessly and Stock finished nicely. We'd kept him quiet all day, but were masters of our own downfall on that occasion. Typically we fought back and laid siege to Raiders. The introduction of Josh Rose made an immediate impact.
"Brad at the death and we threw everything at Raiders. We expected more than four minutes of injury time given the number of substitutions and stoppages but we didn't get it."
"We are down, out of one cup but still in the Morrison. There are some fine sides left in that competition so we're not going to get ahead of ourselves - but we'll do everything we can to make a name for ourselves come May."
Looking ahead to the final, Peters went on to say: "We outplayed Hendon twice in the league – the first time missing four or five glorious opportunities to win the game, whilst the second was much closer. They blend experience and know-how with youthful exuberance and that’s a dangerous combination to go up against, but we can’t wait to get stuck into them again as they’re due a good beating."
As for the claims of the Hendon boss regarding NLR's ability to adjust to grass (they play home games on 3G), Peters added: "Garbacz loves the attention, doesn’t he? Despite all the jibes about our lack of grass preparation we’ve had a pretty good record on the surface and would have been happy to beat Faithfold, Team and Lions Blue on grass had the weather held out.
"That said, this isn’t about Hendon. It’s about Norstar London Raiders and the first major final that the club has been in.
"We couldn’t care less who we’re playing or where we’re playing – all that matters is that when we crawl off the pitch after 90 minutes it’s winners medals that will be going round our necks and Rhodesy who will have his hands on that trophy."