MGBSFL-MMFL INVITATIONAL TROPHY FINAL
NORSTAR LONDON RAIDERS B vs HENDON UNITED SPORTS CLUB A
It’s hard to call a favourite in the Invitational Trophy final featuring Division One strugglers Hendon B and Division Two champions NLR B at Wingate & Finchley on Sunday.
NLR, my pre-tournament favourites, carried their momentum from the league into the group phase, with top-scorer Nicky Woolf filling his boots. He’s certainly one to watch at the Harry Abrahams Stadium, and wouldn’t look out of place in the CAC final earlier that day.
L’Orange have good pace down both flanks, with the likes of Mike Hershman looking to terrorise the Hornets defence, providing good service to a front two of Nicky Woolf and Adam Posner, a real talent who can also play between the lines. Experienced striker Jonny Blain, who has had more clubs that hot dinners (or possibly not, love you Blainy!), is likely to start on the bench, but his big-match experience might just sway things in NLR’s favour late on.
Dave Esterkin has been an absolute revelation and looks a strong candidate for the MGBSFL Division Two Player of the Season.
Looking ahead to the big match, NLR boss Jonathan Adelman told JC Sport: "The Club has come a long way since I led the team out for its last Wingate final in 2004 (the win over Sutlu Borek in the Barry Goldstein Cup) and to have both our A and B teams competing in back-to-back Cup Finals on the same day is really very special for everyone in Orange.
"It comes on the back of a remarkable season for Raiders with three of our four sides having won their Leagues already, and with our A-team still top of the Premier League.
"After completing an "Invincible" league campaign to clinch the second division title, Raiders B stand on the brink of clinching a double, but we know that any Hendon side will be tough opponents. The wide open spaces at the Abrahams Stadium will suit our style well, especially with the likes of David Esterkin, Adam Posner, Gilad Kestenbaum, Andrew McMaster and Mike Hershman in our ranks.
"We've been a free-scoring side for most of the season and our run to Wingate has seen us smash 17 goals in our four games, with skipper Nicky Woolf scoring a brace in each game.
"We know Hendon have conceded an average of three goals a game this season, so we will be looking to exploit any weakness at the back.
"We'll rely on our experienced heads such as Matt Greene, Jonathan Shapiro, Jonny Blain and Anthony Goodmaker to guide the boys through what could be an emotional roller-coster of a day.
"It should be a cracking game - we have the momentum of a great league campaign, but Hendon had a solid end to their season to retain their first Division status and I expect the teams to be evenly matched. It we do go to penalties we know that in David Simnock we have probably the best penalty-saving expert in Jewish football (Ed. since Danny Caro).
"We go in to the game with real confidence having notched 11 wins and a draw from our last 12 games, and with the psychological edge of by far the best Jewish Cup Final song of this or any generation thanks to the skills of winger Rob Samuelson (who should come through a late fitness test to play on Sunday).
Although the higher division team, I make Hendon slight underdogs, but it’s good to see them finishing the season so strongly. Striker Daniel Garfinkle has been one of the players of 2014, with his goals ensuring they avoided the drop. No doubt A-team gaffer Garbacz has his sights set on getting him to make the step up next term.
Ahead of the final, player-manager Aryeh Goldring told JC Sport: "We’re obviously looking to take our good form from the last seven weeks into the final and end it on a positive note.
"On our day we’re a match for anyone and we will look dominate an impressive Norstar side.
"We have a really strong squad available and the boys are massively up for it, but it’s about staying calm, controlling the game and looking to play to our strengths.
"Whilst not that familiar with their team, I know that both Gilad Kestenbaum and Jeremy Elster are very good players and full of energy. I also have no doubt Rafi Addlestone will be missed.
"We will have to make sure we match them for work-rate and I’m confident our quality will shine through. We have ability all over the park, but we will look to our most experienced players, the likes of Alex Neiss and Martin Smulovitch, to keep the team focused and solid.
"If given the chance the likes of Daniel Garfinkle, Gav and Ra Noe and Avi Markiewicz will punish them on the break.
"Our game-plan will be the same, but roll-on, roll-off allows us to maintain the intensity throughout and that means the whole squad will have a massive part to play.
"Everyone is desperate to be involved in what will no doubt be an excellent and competitive game."
JC team news: Hendon lost Lee Sieradzki to an ankle injury two weeks ago, which Goldring describes “as a real blow and he will be sorely missed”.The game might have come to soon for gaffer Goldring who broke his arm six weeks ago. But with 14/15 players available, he will have some tough decisions to make before Sunday.
NLR are missing Richard Bloom, Simon Buchler, Danny Bloom, Rafi Addelstone and Jeremy Elster for the final, but the “strength and depth of our squad has been one of the major reasons we have had such a consistent season and it’s great to be able to call on the likes of Club legend Rob Richman, Mayer Shultz as well as Will Ufland and Liam Stein from our title-winning C-team, both of whom excelled in the Group Stages and semi-final".
Venue - Wingate & Finchley
JC star man: Mike Hershman (NLR)
DC Prediction: Hendon 1 Raiders 3