HSCL Res. Div. One:
Baldock Town 3 London Lions Reserves 0
Baldock avenged their defeat at the hands of Lions reserves a month ago, although the final result suggests a far more comprehensive and comfortable win than it was, as the visitors recovered from an awful start to make quite a game of it.
All the pre-match talk about ignoring the poor pitch, not worrying about the hail and wind, matching up physically from the offset and, above all, moving the ball forwards seemingly went in one ear and out the other as Lions management duo Jon Green and Danny Jacobs were left kicking the dugouts, balls and even the local dog in frustration as plans were not actioned.
Against the top side in the league a two-goal lead is not something you want to gift, but Lions did just that inside the first 10 minutes.
Having intercepted a dangerous attack Tim Becker clipped the ball into space, but no Lion reacted. Baldock’s influential No. 8 controlled and, under no pressure, drove a ball across goal where, unmarked, their giant centre forward nodded back across Lions keeper Mark Brahams into the corner. The situation worsened when, on the edge of his own box, Bradley Lazarus mis-placed his out ball, his pass seized upon, taken forward and then struck across Brahams, the ball bobbling over his outstretched leg into the corner.
Yet Lions responded and, although still guilty in midfield of too many square balls on this type of pitch, began to take an element of control.
Josh Newman in particular tried to play, and linking with the hard working Ross and Lazarus up front got things moving.
Young Shai Revivo beat his man on the right and delivered a fine low cross that Ross met on the volley, only for the keeper to expertly cling on before Leader, picking up the loose ball from a corner, chipped goalwards, this time the Baldock stopper finger tipped the effort onto the bar.
Brahams was relatively untested, bar a smart stop to his left, while Lions had further Ross and Becker efforts without reward.
With the wind at their backs Lions huffed and puffed to get back in the game. After 15 stale minutes Lions introduced James Stanley for his debut, sacrificing Leader in the holding role, as they tried to get some width in their play.
Almost immediately they fashioned an opening, but Lazarus' stinger was well saved. Typically then David Newman picked up a knock, and with only Jacobs left on the bench, were forced to play Newman up front as he bravely sought to be a thorn despite being in obvious pain.
Brahams, whose handling and kicking were exemplary throughout, saved brilliantly twice to keep Lions in the game, yet other than that it really was his opposite number who was starring. Twice he clawed away headers from Danny Schindler and Paul Samuels before parrying from Ross and scrambling back to tip over a Lazarus long ranger.
Revivo, now filling in at right back, was combining well with Lazarus as both had fine second halves.
Lions though knew it wasn't to be their day when, after a nice run from Stanley, Ross cut inside before being hauled down. Stonewall penalty not given and, as the ball was hacked clear, the bounce deceived Samuels and the Baldock No. 8 twisted and turned past three challenges before smashing home a third.
Hopefully lessons were learned, yet despite the result there were positives aplenty. At this level you can't though gift the better sides goals and must take advantage of any opportunities that come your way.
Against this same opposition a month ago that's exactly what Lions ensured against - Baldock got their revenge today.
Lions reserves: Mark Brahams, Warren Leader (sub: James Stanley), Danny Schindler, Justin Spiro, Josh Newman, David Newman, Tim Becker, Joel Ross, Shai Revivo, Bradley Lazarus, Paul Samuels