Jamie Cole, manager of the JC MSFL Rep team, was a proud man after leading the Maccabi League to only their second ever victory in the London Inter-League Cup following a five-goal thriller against the London & Kent Borders League at Brimsdown Rovers FC on Thursday night.
Two goals from North West Neasden striker Lee Cash plus one from South Manx’s Paul Babai completed a hard fought 3-2 win against strong opponents for whom more than half of the team play in the Ryman League.
Having won their two round robin group games, Maccabi started the final in confident mood. Their squad, which included captain Alex Levack, Paul Lenchner and Cash, the only remaining players from the first successful Maccabi side who beat the same opposition under Tony Gold five years ago.
It was Maccabi who settled first with a wickedly curling cross from Sam Sloma cleared for a corner. Levack’s flag kick was met by the onrushing Jonny Ellis but he headed wide.
Maccabi were dealt a blow inside the opening 12 minutes when TJ Keterman was forced off with a hamstring injury that makes him a huge doubt for Sunday’s Peter Morrison Trophy final. He was replaced by Cash.
The Neasden striker did not need long to make an impact. Sloma broke clear before feeding Cash who beat his marker before producing a cool finish into the bottom corner, somewhat against the run of play.
The goal came just as the LKBL looked to be getting a foothold but the goal lifted Maccabi’s confidence and the influential Babai released Cash with an exquisite pass but he connected weakly with his shot and the ball fly straight at the keeper.
Maccabi continued to threaten. From a free-kick, Mike Pearson flicked the ball on to Cash who delivered a delicious first-time pass into the path of the onrushing Sloma but he blazed over with the goal at his mercy.
Looking particularly threatening on the break, another good move instigated by Sloma resulted in the menacing Cash having a shot parried to safety by the keeper.
Danny Berliner, the Maccabi keeper, was called into action for the first time after 40 minutes, but he was alert to push a volley away.
With half time approaching, Maccabi broke away from a LKBL corner. Cash released Ben Ellis who released Sloma with a sliderule pass. Sloma’s shot was superbly blocked by the keeper but there was Babai who reacted smartly to the rebound, producing an acrobatic volley into the net.
Second later, Ben Ellis almost made it 3-0 but his shot was cleared off the line.
Two goals to the good at the break, Maccabi started the second half in determined fashion. Babai entered the referee’s notebook for a bone-crunching tackle.
But things were to get even better for Cole’s troops who were in dreamland on the hour mark as great work from Pearson saw the ball drop to Cash on the edge of the box. His curling effort proved too hot for the keeper and dropped underneath the bar to make it 3-0.
It looked like game over but LKBD did not let their heads drop and they were gifted one back when the ref blew for a penalty after one of the LKBD players went to ground in the area. Berliner got his hands on the spot-kick but he could not keep it out.
Maccabi had a golden opportunity to clinch the game minutes later as a huge clearance from Jonny Ellis was headed on by Cash, into the path of Sloma. Finding himself one-on-one with the keeper, he ended a marauding run with a skewed effort that whistled well wide.
As the game became stretched, Maccabi looked dangerous on the break but they were let down by the final ball.
LKBL set up a grandstand finish as they made it 3-2 with 12 to go as a deep free-kick was met by a looping header at the far post and the ball nestled in the top corner.
The South Londoners were kept at arm’s length from the Maccabi goal during the closing stages but when they did get behind them, Jonny Ellis was on hand to head off the line.
As the final whistle blew, the JC MSFL boys celebrated in style to cap off a memorable campaign.
Having surprisingly missed out on an appointment for the European Maccabi Games or Maccabiah Games despite winning everything in Jewish football – the Morrison, Anekstein, MSFL Premier Division, MJSL and cups in Manchester, and now adding the London Inter-League Cup - it was a proud night for manager Jamie Cole.
A jubilant Cole said: “This is a great achievement for Jewish football. Everybody played their part. This is a trophy we have not won for five years and it is now back with the MSFL. Darren and Andy played a huge part in our success. I would also like to thank our captains, Alex Levack and Daniel Stanton.
"The performance we produced last night in terms of our ability to stay in a tight game and force a win, I think epitomised what we have been about in this trophy.
"We have had our critics, most people thought we would not stand a chance to win this competition but throughout you have all been exceptional. I along with Darren and Andy are very proud.
“The boys showed great effort and determination. It was a real team performance. We used 36 players over the three games and our success shows the strength of the MSFL. We rode our luck a bit but overall, it’s a great night for the league.”
Coach Darren Yarlett commented: “We were expecting a physical battle on a very bobbly pitch. Our plan was to turn their full-backs and go long in a game were there was not much football played. Our pace up front troubled them and we competed in all the right areas.”
Two-goal hero Lee Cash said: "Credit has to go to the squad as a whole, I think we used something like 35 different players over the three games and everyone played a major part. After a long hard season, this is a massive bonus for all the boys, especially as we have not won this cup for several years.
"This achievement would also not have been possible without the hard work from the coaching staff, Jamie, Andy and Darren who have been first class and the decision to of appointment the three of them at the start of the season has paid dividends, the boys would fight all the way for these three and that's certainly what we did."
David Wolff, chairman of the JC MSFL, said: "It was a very proud night for what some people are calling ‘a decaying league’. All the boys were a great credit. Special thanks are accorded to Jamie, Andy and Darren and also our pyhsios Chris and Jimmy."
JC MSFL: Danny Berliner 8, Elliot Green 8 (sub: Danny Cole 75, 7), Alex Levack (capt) 9, Jonny Ellis 9, Aron Barnes 8, Sam Sloma 8, TJ Keterman 7 (sub: Lee Cash 9), Ben Ellis 8, Danny Daggers 8 (sub: Ari Last 80, 7), Paul Babai 9, Michael Pearson 9. Subs not used: Paul Lenchner, Adam Hakimi, James Gershfield
Goals: Lee Cash 15, 60 Paul Babai 42
Booked: Paul Babai 50 (late tackle)
JC men of the match: Lee Cash, Alex Levack and Jonny Ellis
JC Player of the Tournament: Paul Babai
Photos and video highlights coming up soon
JC PLAYER RATINGS
Danny Berliner 8, Elliot Green 8 (sub: Danny Cole 75, 7), Alex Levack (capt) 9, Jonny Ellis 9, Aron Barnes 8, Sam Sloma 8, TJ Keterman 7 (sub: Lee Cash 9), Ben Ellis 8, Danny Daggers 8 (sub: Ari Last 80, 7), Paul Babai 9, Michael Pearson 9. Subs not used: Paul Lenchner, Adam Hakimi, James Gershfield