JC Cyril Anekstein Cup Round One: LM Lions B 3 NWN C 2 AET
Premier Division Lions B needed extra time as they overcame Division Two high-flyers Neasden C.
This was a terrific display from the Neasden 'C' team who for long periods of the game had Lions second string rocked and on another day, could easily have won this tie.
The game started with little to separate the teams. Chances at either end were at a premium and, having wondered what to expect against a team two divisions above them, Neasden soon realised that they were able to compete and more than hold their own.
It was unfortunate therefore when after about 20 minutes during which they had been very comfortable, Neasden then shot themselves in the foot with a slight miscommunication at the back which meant a cross was not dealt with and Scott Levy stole in to glance a header into the far corner and gift the Premier division team a lead.
Neasden's confidence was rocked and Lions settled into their passing game. For the next 20 minutes it was a one-way tide as Lions carved Neasden apart time and again.
On another day Neasden could have been going in at half time three or four down, but the Lions were wasteful in front of goal and they were made to pay five minutes before the break when Neasden forced a corner.
It was swung in by Steve Bloom and Neasden's big men, Joel Hilton and Paul Andrews made a nuisance of themselves in the box and as Lions failed to clear captain Hilton managed to prod home from close range and level it up.
Again this swung the tide and having taken a battering for 20 minutes previously, Neasden now finished the half strongly and started the second with the winds in their sails. Suddenly the Lions who had been passing it around and carving Neasden open were not finding space and not getting through. They were reduced to shooting from 30 yards as they just could not find a way through as Neasden worked enormously hard to close the space and get bodies behind the ball. At the same time, Neasden were causing problems of their own going forward and were the team now creating the better chances.
When a quick break resulted in a cynical foul five yards outside the Lions' box, Jake Green stepped up to bend a great effort in on goal. The keeper got down well to save but will consider himself fortunate that the ball amazingly bounced up off his body and over the bar when it so easily could have gone in.
No matter though as the resulting corner did go in. Again Neasden challenged the ball in the box resulting in just a half clearance and Adam ‘Shaggy' Leveson was there to strike home from the edge of the box through a crowd of players and hand Neasden a shock lead.
Lions just did not appear to have an answer and watching on from the touchlines, it looked as though for all their possession and territory it was Neasden in control as they broke away time and again and threatened whilst Lions were reduced to long shots which by and large were woefully off target.
That is until a thunder bolt from some 35 yards from Hadley Silver rifled into the back of the net. Great goal. Great strike. Just about the only thing that was going to save Lions from an embarrassing and humiliating defeat.
And so the game rumbled on into extra time. Neither team really did enough at this point to justify a win and a draw and penalties the likely outcome. Until just after the start of the second half when Neasden had a lapse of concentration on the half way and needlessly conceded possession. Lions broke forward and with Neasden being caught without men behind the ball they suddenly had the space to carve a chance and score the winning goal courtesy of Will Beresford.
Lions won 3-2 but the real winners were Neasden C who showed that on any given day, even missing three key players, they can mix it with the Premier Division. Neasden should take heart and pride from this performance as every player gave it their all. Neasden should also realise that at their own level, this ought to prove that should be able to beat most teams on any given week.
Credit to each and every Neasden player today but non more so that ‘Shaggy' Leveson who commanded the defence, never put a foot wrong and was generally outstanding all the way.