Herts Senior Centenary Cup Semi-Final:
Hoddesdon Town 3
London Lions 2 AET
It was a case of so close yet so far as London Lions were defeated 3-2 by Hoddesdon Town in the last couple of minutes of extra-time.
Other than the first 30 minutes of the game, this was a match Lions dominated in terms of possession, chances and fitness. Harsh lessons can be learned against opposition from higher leagues and Lions will have learned a lot about themselves after this match.
First lesson is that concentration levels need to be constantly high with very little room for lapses. Three lapses of concentration ultimately cost the brave Lions leaving themselves too much to do at the very end.
Second lesson is when goal scoring opportunities present themselves they must be taken and at times Lions were just not clinical enough, although in their defence the referee disallowed a perfectly good goal which arguably would have won them the game.
The bottom line was Hoddesdon never once had to work for one of their goals whilst Lions showed tremendous belief and character to claw themselves back from two goals down showing unbelievable work rate and ethic.
Both teams did everything possible to get the ball down and play and considering the pitch wasn’t the best, the football was of a surprising high quality.
It was Hoddesdon who took the initiative and but for an unbelievable point blank save from Matt Davis in the Lions goal, the away side could have been a goal down early on.
As Hoddesdon continued to get the upper hand eventually and deservedly they took the lead. Once again midfield runners were not tracked and Hoddesdon’s number six couldn’t believe his luck as he ran through unchallenged to put the holders one up.
Both sides continued to compete with Lions’ Ben Lampert booked for an over-zealous challenge on his counter part.
Going in one down at half-time wasn’t catastrophic but the Lions needed to grab the bulls by the horn in the second-half in order to get back into the game and perhaps go on and win it.
Hoddesdon didn’t know what hit them as Lions went straight for the jugular. Just when it looked like the Lions were about to equalise, and totally against the run of play, they found themselves two down.
Adam Stolerman had a great chance to level but saw his shot fly agonisingly wide of the far post. From the resulting goal kick Hoddesdon went down the other end and made it 2-0 after Davis fluffed a kick which went straight to the Hoddesdon forward who calmly chipped the ball straight back over his head and into the empty goal.
It was time for change as Dominique Cheniart and Adam Lauffer were introduced allowing Aron Barnes and Ben Lauffer to move centrally replacing the hard working Danny Castle and intuitive Ben Lampert.
The move paid dividends immediately. Stolerman, who had a missed a very similar chance earlier, made no mistake second time around as he smashed the ball home to spark the Lions revival.
Seven minutes later the fresh legs of Cheniart caused Hoddesdon no end of trouble and his well taken shot drew Lions level.
Suddenly with 20 minutes remaining there was only one team in it and it was Hoddesdon.
Lions continued to drive forward with Hoddesdon out on their feet.
Then came a moment of massive controversy which was to cost Lions a potential winner. Hoddesdon laid a back pass to the keeper and Stolerman reacting quickly was onto the ball like a flash. As the keeper and his own defender collided the ball fell invitingly to Stolerman and he lashed the ball home into the empty net. Euphoria turned to disgust as the referee ruled the goal out for an apparent push.
Extra time then ensued with Lions looking the likely winners. Guy Morris, who had a very solid game at centre-half, then had to be replaced after a nasty collision with Hoddesdon’s forward who also left the field of play.
Ben Ellis was introduced as Lions went three up-front with Guy Helman dropping back into centre-half.
Ellis’s introduction almost paid dividends as he went clean through but his shot was hit directly at the keeper who parried the ball away. Stolerman then had half a chance as the ball was swung in from the left but it got stuck under his boot and the chance went begging.
The Lions had given it their all and with only a couple of minutes remaining it looked like the game was going to be decided by the lottery of spot-kicks, but there was a sting in the tail.
Whilst dribbling out of the back Guy Helman unluckily got the ball stuck in his feet and was robbed. With only Davis to beat the Hoddesdon forward composed himself and drilled the ball low and hard into the gapping goal, it was a cruel way to lose a game the Lions worked so hard for and on the balance of play deserved to win.
Looking back over the 120 minutes, Lions assistant-manager Steve Grenfell said “Without stating the obvious, Hoddesdon have got away with murder. The lads showed tremendous character to come back from two down against a side playing a level above and really should have gone on and won the game.
“Although they will feel massive disappointment in the dressing room they can take huge positives from the way they applied themselves especially in the second-half and extra time.
“The biggest compliment they got was from the Hoddesdon manager who said we were the best side they have played against this season. These are the teams these lads should be playing against week in and week out and now they have to turn all their energies into going on and winning the league in order to do so.”
Lions: Matt Davis, Guy Helman, Adam Myeroff, Guy Morris (sub: Adam Lauffer), Tony Gold, Ben Lauffer, Daniel Castle (sub: Ben Ellis), Alex Levack, Aron Barnes, Ben Lampert (sub: Dominic Cheniart), Adam Stolerman
Man of the match: Adam Myeroff (Lions)