London Lions reserves’ title hopes were dealt a blow as they were beaten 3-1 by Totternhoe in the South Midlands League Reserve Division Two.
On paper, this was a Lions side packed with ability, a side with attacking options and first team performers that gave much to be excited about in the pre-match build up. Sadly games are often played on far from perfect surfaces, not always with the greatest of officials and never, ever on paper.
Sure, Lions will point to a refereeing display of comical proportions, but the truth is that they still created enough clear-cut chances to negate the decisions that quite clearly went against them. As early as the tenth minute Lions should have been two goals to the good. Jordan Marks burst down the left, evaded the full back before squaring back for Richard Baum. In what would have been a carbon copy of goals he’s scored in two of the last three weeks, Lions’ number 11 somehow put his effort wide with the goal gaping.
Jonathan Green, having earned a starting berth with a string of impressive cameos, was next to fluff his lines in front of goal. Sent clean through he pulled his shot horribly wide with just the keeper to beat. And moments later Lions were punished. With Jake Lew receiving no shielding down left flank, the Totternhoe winger was allowed time and space to drive a cross-field ball. It evaded the Lions back line but not the onrushing forward whose sweet volley flew past Scott-Libby who to this point had not even touched the ball.
Lions continued to try and probe, but as the pitch cut up horribly this became harder to do, and Lions became increasingly agitated by some strange officiating. They were though still on the front foot, Totternhoe having no answer to the pace of Marks – well other than fouling him to which the referee took no action.
Pincus, Ellis, Baum, Green and Goodman all had efforts on goal but failed to trouble the keeper until an exquisite turn from Baum allowed him the space to find Pincus bursting forward. He stepped outside the centre half before driving low into the bottom corner to level the scores. So close to the break this should have been the catalyst to drive Lions on, but right on half time came a moment of real controversy.
Lions lost out in the centre of the park, the home side angling a long ball first-time towards their striker. Jon Ellis, admittedly foot raised, comfortably took the ball out of the air, poking it clear. The attacking forward ran into him and the whistle blew with a raised arm from the ref.
Free kick to Lions most thought. No. OK, at worst an indirect free-kick to Totternhoe for foot up. After an age of confusion no to this too … it was somehow deemed a penalty kick. The opposition bench laughing/cringing told all one needed to know, but the kick was dispatched with some aplomb and the half time whistle went with Lions trailing.
Lee Cash and Stefan Zone were introduced and Lions started in dominant fashion. Within a minute Cash had latched onto a poor square ball and was through, but choosing to take the ball early was a costly decision as his lob beat the keeper and also the crossbar. Marks was taken out of the game by the full back.
Marks, freed from the shackles, drove across the box but Goodman just failed to connect before Zone’s mazy run finished with a shot that stung the keeper’s hands. Next time out he drove across the box, this time Cash from barely two yards and sliding in somehow saw the ball skip off his knee and over the bar. This was one-way traffic Zone escaped again, this time a two-handed shove in the back all that stopped him; cast iron penalty.
Erm no. The normally dead calm Lions manager Jon Green almost exploded on the sidelines as the game became more laughable by the second; the opposition manager offering an apology spoke volumes. Yet Lions should still have got something for themselves as chances kept coming, but when Craig Ellis’ header cannoned back off the bar Lions knew the game was up, and insult was added to injury when late on Totternhoe took advantage of the final waves of Lions attacks to break clear and finish well.
The performance itself actually had plenty of positives, and if just a couple of the umpteen chances created by Lions would’ve been taken we’d probably be crowing about another fine display. But as it was they weren’t and a winnable game was lost to a side that battled, worked hard, rode their luck but that ultimately scored from three of the four chances they created and hence earned the three points.