JC MSFL DIVISION ONE
Norstar A 2 Brixton Old Boys A 3
A late winner from Ben Weinberg put Brixton in pole position to clinch the runners-up spot after they claimed an impressive win over second-place Norstar at the Ark Academy.
Brixton were first out on to the large 3G pitch at the Ark centre, signalling their intention to be first out of the blocks. Both teams started nervously with neither finding their rhythm early on, but it was Norstar who were first to stamp their authority on the game.
They began to move the ball around nicely, finding time and possession all too easily and afforded too much space in the centre of midfield. It wasn't long before Norstars early dominance paid off with Josh Green sprinting free of a slightly flat-footed Brixton central defence to slot home, giving Jake Doffman in the Brixton goal no chance.
Despite their attempts to get back into the game, Brixton seemed to be playing all their football in their own half and although they showed one or two signs that they could really play and get themselves back into the game, they could not seem to find that magic in the final third, with lone striker Kent feeding of scraps.
Norstar continued to control the tempo of the game, exposing gaps in the Brixton formation and just before the end of the half a clever ball into the channel on the break opened up the Brixton defence.
The home side then scored what they believed was a crucial second goal with central midfielder Jonny Kay finding time and space to open up his body and find the corner of the goal, again leaving Doffman without a hope. The goal sparking jubilant celebrations amongst Norstar's players and supporters on the sidelines.
With the half time whistle following shortly after, Norstar walked off the pitch with confidence with one hand on promotion, whilst Brixton trudged off dejected and staring defeat in the face, with a season that promised so much at the start, on the verge of finishing with nothing.
Brixton manager John Nitka, assisted by the vocal club captain Ed Weisz, watching form the side through suspension and the ever-present Blackman out through injury, had stern words for the Brixton team and despite no boots being thrown, the message was clear that it was now or never. In an inspirational tactical move, Brixton changed to a 4-1-3-2 formation in an attempt to close up the centre midfield and bring Alon Hershkorn into the game, playing him up top with Kent.
From the very first minute of the second half, Brixton Old Boys came out like a team possessed - all of a sudden playing the football that saw them beat the likes of Neasden A and Redbridge A earlier in the season, with Fierstone, Weinberg and Rob Hershkorn orchestrating wave after wave of attack.
Their new formation allowed the three players along with holding midfielder James Kaye to play much closer together and they began to take control of the centre midfield with their skill and ability far too much for their Norstar counterparts.
Neat one and two-touch football put Norstar on the back foot, and within the first 10 minutes, Brixton had pulled one back. From a half cleared corner, Weinberg showed what a talent he is, picking the ball up on the edge of the Norstar box, tricking his way past several Norstar defenders and firing a shot which arrowed straight into the top corner leaving the Norstar keeper helpless. A wonder strike by any ones standards, but nothing more than Brixton deserved.
Suddenly the impetus was with Brixton. With a renewed sense of energy and drive, they all of sudden seemed to believe that this game was there for the taking.
Having come back from the dead several times already this season, this was where the Brixton never-say-die spirit really came alive. They began to press Norstar hard, closing down every pass, the back-line playing further forward, finding feet with every pass and winning every second ball.
Norstar were rattled, resigning themselves to the long ball just to relieve the pressure and it was not long after the first goal that Brixton found their equaliser.
An inspired Fierstone received the ball in his own half, and barely looking up, sprayed an exquisite 40-yard pass which found right back Josh Franklin, who despite sprinting 50 yards on yet another one of his seemingly tireless runs, managed to pull the pass down beautifully and with his heel flick the ball past the Norstar left back, his brute physical strength sending the Norstar player crashing to the floor as he attempted to challenge the right back. With two more touches his pace took him to the edge of the box where he managed to lift his head and pull the ball back to Kent who repaid Franklin's work, gracefully stroking the ball home with a first-time side foot into the bottom corner.
Suddenly from 2-0 down, Brixton had pulled level and with around 20 minutes left saw the victory theirs for the taking.
With the game poised on a knife-edge, tensions rose and challenges from both teams started to fly in. At this point a draw was still enough for Norstar, whilst Brixton knew they needed all three points.
With their do or die attitude they continued to play some sublime football, cutting Norstar apart and flying forward. Weinberg, Kaye, Fierstone and Rob Hershkorn were pulling the strings with Kent and Alon Hershkorn working tirelessly up front to create chances.
In their search for a winner, Brixton did leave gaps and several times Norstar found the holes on the break, yet the Brixton back-line stood firm with Sam Franks, James Lee, John Weisz and Josh Franklin defending heroically at times and on the rare occasion they were beaten, Rep Team keeper Jake Doffman was on hand to show why he is one of Maccabi's most sought after talents.
With only minutes remaining on the clock, Norstar sensed that they were going to hang on, yet the fight in Brixton was not to be quashed and in a gravity-defying moment, the imperious Weinberg rose three feet in the air to beat Norstar keeper Ben De La Fuente, after a flick on from substitute Dan Sherman, and despite the goal-mouth scramble that ensued, the ball found its way into the back of the net, and with it the incredible comeback seemingly complete.
The drama though was not over with almost the last kick of the game, Brixton goalkeeper seemed to bring down a Norstar forward inside the box but claims for a penalty were in vain as the linesman flagged, ruling the forward offside.
The final whistle sounded shortly after. Cue the ecstatic celebrations from the Brixton camp, players, fans and staff running onto the pitch to congratulate each other on one of their finest performances of all time and an incredible game of football.
Nitka told JC Sport: "What a match. We did not get going in the first 45 minutes and Norstar were the better team, scoring in the 10th and 42nd minute.
"We then took control of the game and should have scored a few more. Our football was a delight our defence stood firm, our midfield controlled the game and never stopped running and our forwards kept them under constant pressure.
"Every one of my team gave 110 per cent and deserve to be where we are and should be in Team of the Week.
"We are still there and have to win our last game of the season v Redbridge in three weeks time to get promotion to the Premier Division."
Norstar manager John Nitka told JC Sport: "A 3-2 defeat is hHeartbreaking. We were 2-0 up at half time but as good as we were first half Brixton were second half.
"Ben Weinberg's exquisite goal five minutes into the second half was a sucker punch and they raised it from there.
"Two goals so early on in the half put us on the back-foot and we didn't find our rhythm - the winning goal came in the 90th minute and by then it was too late, but full credit to everyone for a terrific game of football.
"We need to regroup and get a result against Woodford to put the pressure back on Brixton when they play Redbridge."