MOLTEN SPARTAN SOUTH MIDLANDS RESERVE LEAGUE DIVISION TWO
London Lions 13 Buckingham Athletic 0
London Lions Reserves signed off season 2011/12 in some style with this thumping victory over a shell-shocked Buckingham Athletic side. They scored 13 goals, including a stunning seven-goal salvo from Nick Goodman, in a most bizarre match that saw just reward for the efforts and long travels of the last nine months.
The result, though, was most unexpected, with Lions expecting to be severely tested by a side who just four weeks previously had provided Lions with one of their toughest matches of the year in a hard fought 2-2 draw.
There seemed few differences in the visitors ranks from that team while Lions kept faith with the all those who started last week at Winslow, changes only those forced on them by the absences of stalwart Frank Hyman, the Franks twins and Adam Stolerman. Back in came skipper Nick Goodman, Adam Hakimi moved into the starting line-up from the bench while Sam Sloma, needing to be near home with his wife a week overdue, told her to cross her legs and hold on so he could get one last game in!
For 20 minutes the game was pretty even. Lions had the ascendency but a well organised Buckingham defence kept them at arms length. Goodman, Helman and Sloma all had strikes on goal but none overly troubled the visitors' keeper.
With a tad of frustration just beginning to creep in, pressure from Nathan forced a hurried backpass that the keeper was only able to half clear. The bouncing ball was returned on the volley by Sloma from fully 35 yards, the keeper though scampering back seemed to mis-judge the bounce of the ball and it found the top corner to give Lions the lead. A lead that within five minutes was doubled when a well-worked corner saw George Fierstone's driven ball dummied by Guy Helman, Goodman sweeping the ball home from close range.
Hakimi and Helman gave Lions a solid platform that allowed full backs Cohen and Craig to pretty much play as wingers for which they needed no second invitation. With Fierstone dropping off and pulling all the strings Lions were in full flow and had their visitors penned back in their own half for almost the entire remaining 20 minutes during which time they added a further seven goals.
Sloma collected the ball on the right, ran across the goal before a low strike from the edge of the box found the bottom corner. Goodman added his second and the side's fourth with a sweet half volley after great work by Craig before he completed his hat-trick with a thumping header from Fierstone's corner.
The two combined again soon after, Goodman this time outmuscling the centre half to latch onto Fierstone's through ball, the curling finish into the top corner on the run as good as any. He should have added his fifth after excellent approach play by Cohen, but succeeded only in hitting the post from barely two yards, but to save his blushes he was first to react, squaring past the defender for Sloma to tap in for his hat-trick.
Goal of the game then followed - Sloma clipped in a free kick, Fierstone cushioned a volley back across goal for Goodman to volley in himself.
With time almost up they added a ninth just before the break, Helman finally getting the goal his play over recent weeks has merited, rounding the keeper and applying the finish after excellent play between Fierstone and Hakimi had set him clear.
Although left with just pride to play for Buckingham did just that in the second period, arguably dominating the first 15 minutes or so. Laurence Judah, Miles Beerman and then Rob Blackman were in no mood to surrender a clean sheet though and protected the Lions goal without real alarm.
On the big pitch, still in perfect condition, Lions' football was able to take over as the teams tired, and in the final quarter of the match added a further four goals. Helman grabbed his second, outpacing the defender and shooting low beyond the keeper before another lung busting run from Cohen saw him cut back for Goodman to rifle home.
Sloma had a couple of chances but the visiting keeper reminded all of the form he'd shown in the earlier encounter with a couple of excellent stops, but he was beaten twice more, once from the spot and then finally by Goodman again, scoring his 32nd of the season in some style, ghosting past three defenders before slotting home.
So the end of a season to be proud of. Once again the Reserves have stuck to their principles and have put playing the younger players and all 14 on match day before thinking about results. The team have been encouraged to play their football and that's what they have done. This is not the time to name names, but the growth of a plethora of teenagers under the wing of the more experienced and regular players has left working with this group a real pleasure.
After a tough start when so many players were unavailable the comeback has been great. The team have had to pull through some tough games, most notably midweek away trips to sides bolstered by first teamers, but have generally done so, and as things stand right now they sit second in the table with only goal difference now able to deny them promotion.
"The way the fixtures have panned out leaves them now having to await Ampthill's last three games - they need three wins whilst improving their goal difference by 21 - hoping that the two Bradwell clubs and Winslow play as well as they did against Lions recently to prevent that.