North London Raiders B opened up their division two campaign with a comprehensive 6-1 victory over FC Heath at their new home ground of Croxdale Road. Two - One up at the interval through goals from debutant Gerard and new captain Sherman, Raiders went up a gear in the second half with a hat-trick from Silver and a late strike from Freed cementing a solid opening victory for Richman's men.
Raiders pre-season had been somewhat mixed mainly as a result of a large number of players being absent across the globe and others carrying injuries. In fact going into the first game of the season Richman was forced to leave out last years top goalscorer and division three player of the season Nicky Woolf as well as his striker partner from last season Adam Posner who had been promoted to the A team. Nick Kenton joined new boy Darren Gerard, a late signing for L'orange, in a new look-strike force.
The first fifteen minutes of the game were a scrappy affair with both team failing to settle into any kind of rhythm. Raiders last pre-season game of football had been back in August so it was no surprise that passes were going astray and touches too heavy. Slowly though Raiders took a grip on proceedings, Silver and Greene, who had both spent much of last season playing premiership football, began to find their range and soon were dominating the midfield. The first chance was fashioned when Israel, now the longest serving Raiders player, found some room on the right flank and crossed for Gerard who saw his header sail a few yards over the bar. Raiders should have taken the lead moments later when another delightful set-piece from Israel fell to Sherman who also headed over the bar from eight yards out.
L'orange were now controlling matters and it was no surprise when thirty minutes into the first half the goal did arrive. A ball played down the channel was touched once by Gerard and then hammered into the roof of the net from 25 yards. This was the first debut goal since Foley-Comer netted on his first appearance in the opening game of the 07/08 season.
The saying goes that a team is at its most vulnerable straight after scoring and it would have been wise for Raiders to have listened to this sound advice. Moment after scoring Heath were level, a shot cannoned off the crossbar and reacting quickest was the Heath centre forward who headed the ball over the despairing Simnock.
The goal was a set-back for Raiders but it only spurred them on in search of the lead. A succession of corners by Israel and Kenton were causing panic in the Heath box and when these two combined for a short corner the ball fell kindly for Sherman to smash home on the half volley to put the boys in orange one goal to the good.
As the second half came to a close Haring was replaced by the ever-green Harris after picking up a knock on his right boot.
The second half started with Raiders showing much more urgency and desire to put the game to bed. The third was not long in coming, a wonderful corner from Kenton was headed powerfully by Harris towards the goal but instinctively the Heath full back handled the ball on the goal line. To everyone's surprise no red card was brandished but this didn't affect the Australian Silver who confidently dispatched his first of the afternoon and third in Raiders colours.
Three soon became four as Foley-Comer who displayed some dazzling footwork (though not quite as dazzling as his new white boots) to beat three men and cut back to Silver who had the easy task of tapping into the open net.
Suddenly Heath showed some fight and Sherman in an attempt to block a shot only managed to collide with the on-rushing striker and the referee had no hesitation in evening up matters and rewarding Heath a penalty. However, Raiders goalkeeper Dave Simnock showed exactly why he is the current MSFL keeper of the year with a fine one handed save to keep the penalty out.
Just a few minutes later and Silver was in wonderland, a speculative twenty five yard drive was too powerful for the unfortunate Heath keeper and Raiders were 5-1 up and Silver was celebrating his birthday in style.
In the last twenty minutes the game started to slow as players fitness began to tell. Freed, who had came on as substitute seemed to still be operating on China time zone after only landing back the day before. Twice Freed should have scored as first he put over a header when it looked easier to score and then he shot straight at the keeper. Finally he did get the goal he craved as a neat drive from the edge of the box found the corner of the net to cap a good start to the season for the division three champions.
After the game Richman had this to say "Its always nice to get the season off with a win and I am very happy with how we played today. The squad is much the same as last year but having not played for a little while it took a little while to get our rhythm back. It is especially pleasing to have scored six goals given both our strikers from last season were absent. The spirit is good and commitment strong and we are all realistic enough to know we will need to play better if we want to achieve our aim of promotion this season"