North West Neasden C 2
North London Raiders B 2
A brace from Steve Bloom helped North West Neasden C come from behind twice as they earned a draw against title rivals North London Raiders B in a fierce Division Two battle at Bricket Wood.
The rivalry between the teams, who finished first and second in Division Three last season, was as fierce as ever. Having pipped Neasden to the title in May, Raiders went into the game with a psychological edge but it was match that was going to be hard to find a winner.
Neasden had concerns before kick-off with no less than six key first team players missing including captain Joel Hilton, right back Ricky Stoltzman, midfield dynamos Jamie Kay, Benji Dymant and Mike Hershman and keeper David Grabiner. It was a credit that they managed to field a team with Adam Kay and Nick Davis coming back from long term injuries and playing their first games for over five months, which at times showed.
Neasden created the first opening after four minutes with Paul Andrews seeing his header was cleared off the line by Ben Sheldon.
The deadlock was broken minutes later as a woeful goal kick from Neasden keeper Simon Beresford fell to the feet of Nicky Woolf who fired home from 15 yards.
James Foley-Comer should have doubled the lead moments later, but he missed an open goal after being put through by Michael Israel.
Mel Beresford's men got back into the game through Bloom, who produced a beautifully crafted chip from outside the box which flew into the net.
The lead proved to be shortlived as Nick Kenton sprinted through and slotted home 10 minutes before the interval.
Raiders had the chance to open up a two-goal lead 12 minutes into the second half when they were awarded a penalty. Foley-Comer went down in the box following a shove from Nick Davis but Beresford made amends for his earlier error by superbly parrying Woolf's spot kick.
A grandstand finish saw both sides hit the woodwork. Woolf held off several challenges but his strike clipped the crossbar. Then Neasden sub Mark Harris hit the post from distance.
Neasden boss Mel Beresford said: "Both sides played well and a draw was a fair result."
Raiders manager Rob Richman said: "There is still a lot to come from us. Drawing away to Neasden is certainly no disgrace."
Neasden C: S. Beresford 7, Kaye 6, Davis 6, Dymant 6, Green 7, Marcus 7 (sub: Henry 6), Levinson 7, Simons 7, Andrews 7, Cohen 7 (sub: Harris 7), Bloom 8
Raiders B: Simnock 7, Blitz 6, Sheldon 7, Freed 7, Foley-Comer 5 (sub: Hodes 7), Sherman 6, Green 6, Kenton 7 (sub: Samuelson 6), Woolf 7, Silver 8, Israel 7