Ric Blank, the joint-manager of Oakwood, says his team will need to pull out all the stops if they are to cause one of the biggest-ever upsets in Jewish football and stop Hendon United Sports Club A from completing a cup double at Wingate & Finchley on Sunday.
Together with Alex Schock, Blank is confident that the newly-crowned JC MSFL Division One champions will not let the occasion get to them in their first appearance in the Peter Morrison Trophy final.
The original match was rained off last weekend and Blank says his troops cannot wait to set foot on the famous pitch.
"After this wait we're even more excited to make our debut at Wingate," Blank told JC Sport. "Nothing has changed in terms of Hendon being huge favourites and they were understandably relaxed and confident when we met up last week.
"We've been enjoying the build-up though and it's given the boys a taster to play in these games more often.
"With that in mind, I am very excited to see how we hold up against the best team in the country. We want to set ourselves some targets for next season and this is a great place to start.
"I've had huge selection headaches for this game but it's been the same every game this year. We have a good squad of honest players who are desperate to play and it's galling keeping some out of the squad let alone on the bench. But they understand this is men's football and we always try and make decisions we think are right and fair.
"It's an amazing end to the season for us and I hope the boys turn up with smiles on their faces, up for a challenge."
"Obviously Hendon are huge favourites for the final,” said Blank, “I’ve seen them play and have been very impressed. It’s been pointed out to me countless times how big the pitch is and how that will suit Hendon down to the ground.
"They’re a fit side and we’re a division 1 side and, with all due respect to previous opponents, we haven’t played a team with Hendon’s credentials. We’re just delighted to be part of such a great occasion and the boys are determined to enjoy themselves."
An Oakwood contingent watched an hour of last weekend’s JC Cyril Anekstein Cup final and Hendon’s performance in the 3-1 win over Brady has given them food for thought.
"They will fancy themselves too given some of the quality they have available,” said Blank. “I know some of their players very well and it’s a great test for us with next season in mind. We will be playing teams of Hendon’s quality week-in week-out so it’s a great opportunity to see what we’re capable of."
Captain Adam Levine, winger Bradley Wine and Jason Lindsay have been star performers in league and cup, while Blank describes striker Ian Tussie as the "Matt Le Tissier of Oakwood".
Whatever happens on Sunday, Oakwood have had an excellent season, winning 13 out of 16 games on their way to the Division One title. “This season has exceeded even our wildest expectations,” said Blank. We started well enough before losing three out of four games in the league. This was followed by incredible 13 game winning streak in both the league and cup. By the end of January we were top and did not look back. In that time we beat some very good teams and looked better and better as the season went on.
"Amongst all that was a cup run that rather snuck up on us. The game against Leeds gave the boys a taste for big games and now we can’t wait for the final, just happy to be part of the occasion."
With the majority of the squad born in Manchester, Blank is confident that his team will push Hendon all the
way on Sunday, despite not having played a competitive game since the start of the month. He said: “This season has seen the accumulation of experience, talent and determination result in us winning the division comfortably.
With one trophy already in the bag, Hendon will be looking only the second team in MSFL history to complete the treble – Glenthorne United enjoyed a clean sweep in season 1988/89.
Greg Corin, super-sub Josh Bentley and Ari Last were the goal men in last week's Anekstein Cup victory over Brady and the bad news for Oakwood is that they will be even stronger on Sunday.
The Reds look set to be at full-strength for the crunch clash with defender Paul Bentley travelling over from New York to play, as is right-back Motti Colman, having only recently done Aliyah. Keeper Russell Corin and striker Ben Kon hope to pass a late fitness tests.
Manager David Garbacz is confident his troops can handle the weight of expectation. "The whole squad is still buzzing with excitement following last week’s superb Anekstein cup victory . It was such a relief to end our recent Wingate jinx and the boys thoroughly deserved their victory.
"We have put the real celebrations on hold until after the league match on the May 6, although it will be difficult to stop the party starting should we lift the Morrison on Sunday morning bearing in mind our almost unassailable position in the league.
"It will clearly be a case of not going into this match too over-confident or arrogant and to keep our feet firmly on the ground. We must not take our opposition lightly in any way and must ensure we go into the game with the same intensity as last week.
"They will have thought of nothing else for weeks and will be incredibly well-prepared for the occasion.
"With the treble so close I am sure the boys will have totally the right attitude and we now see this game as one of the most significant in Jewish football for many years bearing in mind what is at stake.
"There are a lot of similarities between Oakwood and ourselves. They are very much a family club having grown up together and they too have a number of brotherly pairs which creates a fabulous team spirit as well as one or two extra special players. They have won the Division One championship with room to spare and will no doubt be a major force in the Premier Division next year, especially if they continue to strengthen.
"Having said that, we do not know a great deal about their style of play although I am sure they will attempt to play a very tight, organised match, soaking up the inevitable pressure and will look to hit us on the break.
"The fact that they beat South Manchester in the semi-final without concedingl shows how hard they could potentially be to break down.
"We are under no illusions how tense a game this could be and we will aim to get off to a fast start and to knock their enthusiasm and hopes early on.
"We are on the brink of an amazing achievement this year and we go into this match with enormous confidence and self-belief – I reckon we would quite fancy our chances against Man.Utd at the moment the way some of these guys are feeling.
"We have the extra experience and we have huge incentive. We will aim to entertain the crowd as always and above all I would hope for yet another great advert for the Jewish game which ultimately sees Hendon A fully confirmed as the number one Jewish team in the country."
Although one division separates the teams, I'm confident Oakwood will give an excellent account of themselves, but, for me, ultimately the difference will be Hendon's superior quality and experience of playing at the Harry Abrahams Stadium.
No doubt Oakwood's time will come. They have done brilliantly to get to where they are - in the final and Division One champions - but the outstanding Ben Lauffer, Ari Last and Greg Corin will ensure double delight for the Hammers.
OAKWOOD: Oli Gee, Adam Levine (capt), Rob Davidson, David Cohen, Jonny Beilin, Eddie Manson, Ilan Scorah, Eric Lewis, Stefan Isaacs, Dan Ash, Dan Geey, Daniel Abrams, James Abrams, Brad Wine, Ian Tussie, Antony Kintish, Josh Rubin, Matt Geey, Jason Lindsay, Ben Myers, David Epstein,
Managers: Ric Blank, Alex Schock
HENDON: Russell Corin, Josh Bentley (capt), Alex Gilbert, Paul Bentley, Josh Lipman, Martin Smulovitch, Motti Colman, Alex Rosenthal, Rafi Kon, Ben Kon, Ben Lauffer, Ari Last, Greg Corin, Yoav Kestenbaum, Avidan Last, Danny Kon, Dovid Korman. Manager: David Garbacz
Venue - Wingate & Finchley FC, KO - 10.30am
JC star man: Ari Last (Hendon)
DC Prediction: Oakwood 0 Hendon Utd SC A 2
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