Kenningwell United 2
Norstar defied their reputation as a 'first-half' team by putting in a five-star performance against London & Kent Border Inter One outfit Kenningwell FC on a sun-drenched morning at Hatch End.
With injuries and absentees, the home team handed Neil Daniels, Ben Menahem and Josh Kleiman their first start of the season, and halfway through the first half Kleiman rewarded his managers' faith with the first goal of the game. Picking up the ball on the halfway line, he flew down the left touch line cutting in to the edge of the area before rifling a shot into the top corner of the goal, out of the Kenningwell goalkeepers' reach.
Soon it was 1-1 after a defensive mix-up from a corner that gave the visitors a new burst of energy. But their bubble burst a few minutes later when after a poor clearance from the keeper, Neil Daniels placed the ball, first-time, into the top corner of the net from 35-yards out - a potential contender for goal-of-the-season, let alone goal of the week.
After the change of ends, Norstar came out all-guns-blazing, determined not to continue their record of losing the second half in both of their opening league games. They duly delivered when after some neat work down the left from Maurice Franks, last week's player-of-the-week, Kleiman swung in a cross which Eli Houri neatly headed home.
Again, the away team came back, beating the helpless Jonny Evans from the edge of the area and the weary looking Norstar were crying out for some fresh legs as the heat took its toll. Goal-scorer Kleiman and the excellent Matt Plaskow were replaced by Lloyd Kafton and debutant Jonny Bunt, whose 6'3 frame provided some much needed aerial support at the back.
Kafton's put in a noteworthy performance alongside captain Zac Newman, and provided a perfect ball for Houri's second goal within a minute of coming on. Beating a defender the big striker slotted home from just inside of the books to restore the two-goal advantage and allow the Norstar management to breathe again.
And Kafton was involved again for the fifth goal when Daniels' persistent pressuring of the keeper paid off and he was able to play in Houri to score the easiest goal of his career, side footing past the defender on the line to complete his hatrick.
Having won three out of three, Norstar certainly look a force to be reckoned with this season and will now face Fenerbache in the next round of the FA Sunday Junior Cup.
Assistant manager Jamie Slavin released a short statement after the match praising the players commitment and ever-improving fitness: "this was definitely our best performance of the season and despite the crippling conditions, we put in a huge amount of effort against one of the best teams we're likely to come up against this season. Whilst Eli, Josh and Neil will grab the headlines today, special credit must go to Rob Pearl who put in another cracking performance at the back."
Manager Phil Peters, who defied calls to put out the academy side for the cup game confirmed that "today's game just goes to prove that the magic of the FA is very much alive. It brought out the best in all our players and we look forward to the Fenerbache game in a few weeks time.
"All the players and staff would like to wish everyone in the community a very happy and healthy new year."