With the season winding down, there is action in three divisions including a mouth-watering encounter between Norstar B and Faithfold C in Division Three. Danny Caro looks ahead to the action.
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JC MSFL PREMIER DIVISION
SOUTHGATE HARMEN A vs NORTH WEST NEASDEN A
Harmen go into their final game of the season looking to complete a league double over last season’s champions.
It’s been a tough campaign for both camps although, surprisingly, Harmen have fared better in their first season in the top-flight.
Victory for Harmen would mean that one of Neasden’s teams will finish bottom of the division.
Ben Graham was the hero when Dan Uzan’s men thumped Neasden 4-1 in October. They have won just twice since then, once against Neasden B with the other, a highly impressive victory over Morrison finalists Faithfold A.
Neasden gave a good account of themselves in the 2-1 defeat against North London Raiders A last weekend.
Keeper Max Shields and James Gershfield showed their quality while Elliot Stern and Brad Sharpe caused problems down the flanks.
However, confidence is low in both camps and it would be fair to say that the end of the season cannot come soon enough for either side.
Venue – Ashmole School, Ref – A. Myerson
JC star man: Elliot Stern (Neasden)
DC Prediction: Southgate Harmen A 1 NW Neasden A 2
GLENTHORNE UNITED A vs CATFORD & BROMLEY MACCABI
Newly crowned champions Glenthorne will parade the Division Three shield before kick-off on Sunday.
Dan Lipman (2) and John Lessem were the goal-scoring heroes in last week’s 3-1 victory over Real Life – a win that cemented the title.
Midfielder Scot Jay and Matt Geppert also received praise for their performances on a memorable day for the club.
I don’t expect the Thornes to go through the motions against the Cats – one of only three teams to have beaten them this season.
Looking ahead to Sunday, Thornes joint-player-manager Dan Lipman told JC Sport: "This is a big game for us, we want to end the season on a high and it is important to us that we beat Catford as we lost to them in the first fixture.
"They're a well-organised team but we are confident that with the space we have at home we can do the business.
"We've won every game at home this year and turned Chigwellians into a fortress so to finish the season with a 100 per cent home record will make this season's title win even sweeter.
"Above all else, I want the boys to go out there on Sunday and enjoy themselves."
Rafael Moron and Ashley Stokes did the damage when the teams met in February and I can see it being a long 90 minutes for a Catford team beaten 2-1 by Zig Zag last Sunday.
They started the match with a guard of honour for Zeds boss DJ Neal Cohen and I can see them doing the same for the champions.
It’s great to see an MSFL giant back on the up. With both Glenthorne teams likely to be playing in higher divisions next season.
The Cats have also done well to steer clear of relegation. At one stage, it appeared that the writing was on the wall but they have recruited well and it’s good to see one of the league’s oldest teams still going strong.
But when push comes to shove, I’m backing the Thornes to bow out on a high.
Venue – The Old Chigwellians, Ref – K. Gold
JC star man: Scot Jay (Glenthorne)
DC Prediction: Glenthorne Utd A 3 Catford & Bromley Maccabi 1
NORSTAR B vs FAITHFOLD C
There’s an important game in store at the Lodge as the Stars attempt to wrap up third place against nearest rivals Faithfold.
Jonny Bunt’s men had hoped to have cemented third place by now, but they dropped points against UJIA and Real Life.
Their destiny lies in their own hands but they can expect the Barry Goldstein Cup winners to take them the distance once more following February’s six-goal epic.
Josh Sugarbread, Ben Simons and Jonny Blain were the marksmen for Faithfold that day, while Adam Seres, Adam Landroff and an own goal ensured a share of the spoils for the Stars.
After the game, Norstar manager Jonny Bunt told JC Sport: “The referee called it a "great game," though I'm surprised he enjoyed it given the abuse he took throughout the game. Fair play to him for smiling about it afterwards.
"I'm not sure it was a great game, but Faithfold have developed an effective style for playing the narrow Hive pitches which means they play with three central midfielders and one wide player. An interesting approach, supplemented by the standard long ball over the top approach that we all know and favour in Jewish football.
"Despite being 2-1 up at half time I think they were the better side 1st half as we struggled with their system, but a couple of changes after half time gave us more control and whilst I can't argue with a draw which we were lucky to earn with a late goal, I can't help but feel we were a goal better than them second half; not a goal worse.
Not even the presence of A-team star Jonny Haik could help Faithfold last week. They came a cropper 4-1 against Redbridge C whose victory confirmed a second-place finish.
The experience and undoubted class of Haik, Blain, Simons and Matty Kleinman will no doubt boost the visitors on Sunday as manager David Garson makes an emotional return to the ground that served them so well in recent years.
Speaking of recent history, the team that has finished third has gone up more often than not over the past few years so the three points on offer will be a huge incentive to both sets of players.
I think it will come down to which team handles the pressure best and which team takes their chances. On paper, Faithfold hold more aces but I’m sure that Mr Bunt has something special up his sleeve.
Venue – Chase Lodge, Ref – R. Benardout
JC star man: Josh Sugarbread (Faithfold)
DC Prediction: Norstar B 2 Faithfold C 3
UJIA vs REAL LIFE
Barry Goldstein Cup runners-up UJIA could be Real Life’s last-ever MSFL opponents as the curtain comes down for possibly the last time for Jamie Beaumont’s men.
Real have yet to win a game this season and on Sunday it’s last chance saloon for a team with many fans across the league.
The teams played out a 2-2 draw in October when Dan Markeson and Rob Greene registered for Real.
The U’s were back to their best defensively last week when they managed to shut high-flying Norstar out following a woeful display at the back in the cup final.
MSFL stalwart Gavin Sherman led by example. A former league winner with Brady Maccabi, there was no way past the Shermanator who could have his hands full with Markeson and Charlie Bernstein.
Neutrals will be hoping for a fairytale finish for the Real boys who deserve a happy ending.
Venue – The Hive, Ref – A. Djanogly
JC star man: Charlie Bernstein (Real)
DC Prediction: UJIA 2 Real Life 3
INTER BOREHAMWOOD vs SHIRLEY PARK
The maths are simple. Inter Borehamwood will win the title if they win their last three games.
Oluseun Thomas’ men cannot afford any more slip-ups in their pursuit of Blizzard Storm and Glenthorne United B whom they meet in a potential title-decider on May 15.
But first, they must get past Shirley Park, which is not an easy proposition at the best of times.
The Park boys still harbour hopes of a top four finish which they hope will be enough to take them up so I’m expecting a hard fought affair between two talented teams.
The first meeting between the teams was a cagey goalless draw but I’m expecting plenty of goal-mouth action on a day when Inter might have to gamble.
They have stepped up a gear since Thomas introduced a new formation, pushing captain Joel Lassman into the middle of the park. His partnership with Jerome Colmans will be key on Sunday although they must stop Shirley’s front pairing of Jason Lindsay and Gideon Gold from getting the ball.
Shirley’s ginger gems have registered more than 40 goals between them and they could yet shoot down Thomas’ best-laid plans.
This has all the makings of a classic and it’s clearly one not to miss.
Venue – The Hive, Ref – M. Lavender
JC star man: Joel Lassman (Inter)
DC Prediction: Inter Borehamwood 2 Shirley Park 1
NORTH WEST NEASDEN C vs LOS BLANCOS
Neasden are hoping that Inter do them a favour and beat Shirley so they can claim a top four finish.
Louis Taylor’s troops recently thumped LB 5-0 on a day when everything Elliot Setyon touched turned to goals. The former Brixton marksman helped himself to a hat-trick. Other goals came Richard Braham and Taylor himself.
Looking ahead to Sunday, Taylor told JC Sport: “We have a very strong squad for Sunday’s game. A win guarantees us fourth spot and probable promotion which would be a fantastic achievement following our slow start to the season.
“We are a brand new team and have got more and more used to each other which has led us to nine games unbeaten including eight wins.
“I have tough decisions to make all over the park. A win is what we need and we’re confident we can go out there and get it.”
Match referee Dan Cohen is still recovering after his 58-minute stint up front for North London Raiders A against Neasden A last Sunday. Neasden defender Jack Peet will have to take him out of his pocket before kick off and hope the official keeps his cards firmly in his pocket.
While Neasden are in red-hot form, the same cannot be said of Blancos who have flagged off in disappointing fashion.
It has still been a very positive first season for Joel Minsky and co in the league and having beaten Neasden’s B team in the Anekstein, they will be keen to remind everyone just how good they are.
Minsky’s men have given him plenty of food for thought for next season. The manager knows which areas he must strengthen but the priority has to be trying to tie star striker Dany Kon down to a long-term contract.
Minsky is keen to see Kon and Simon Moses line up in the famous LB shirt next season but a lucrative offer from one of the big boys could persuade the chairman to sell.
The clash between Kon and Taylor will be worth the admission fee alone. As for the best of the rest, the combination of Adam Levene and Peet could prove too much for Blancos to break down and I can see them doing the business on Sunday.
JC team news: For Neasden, Elliott Setyon and Laurence Spear come back into the squad, challenging for a place up front as is 20-goal striker Louis Taylor. Jack Peet returns from A team duty.
Venue – Hadley FC, Ref – D. Cohen
JC star man: Laurence Spear (Neasden)
DC Prediction: NW Neasden C 4 Los Blancos 1