MOLTEN SPARTAN SOUTH MIDLANDS RESERVE DIVISION ONE
London Lions Reserves 1 St Margaretsbury 1
A strike from Jonny Ellis helped Lions Reserves maintain their unbeaten start to the season with a hard fought draw against St Margaretsbury.
An exciting Saturday afternoon at The Lane saw Lions and St Margaretsbury share the spoils in a game high on quality and drama, but it was surely the home team that left the ground thinking about what might have been.
Starting at great pace the hosts could, and probably should, have wrapped up the match within the first 20 minutes, a period in which they spurned four great chances.
Levi Levenfiche, 17, in alongside the experienced Ben Lauffer and Jon Ellis, was a dynamo in this early stage, and intercepting a square pass bore down on goal. He elected to chip the keeper from fully 20 yards, and while so unlucky to see his effort land on the roof of the net you can't help but wonder if he could have taken it on.
While SMFC were certainly no passengers in the game, it was without doubt the home side that were creating the clearest chances.
Revivo cut back to Goodman, the Lions skipper though smashing the ball against the post before Revivo's next pass found Levenfiche in a great position, but this time he elected to backheel to Goodman who delayed long enough to see his effort deflected over. The resulting corner was only half cleared, Ellis' piledriver expertly parried by the visitor's keeper, Revivo blazing the rebound into the car park.
Having somehow survived these scares the visitors slowly got a footing in the game. Defensively though Lions were resolute - the full backs Danny Berg and Myles Beerman excelling throughout the half against two fine wide men while Frank Hyman and Laurence Judah were as solid as ever.
SMFC had only the one clear sight of goal when a their pacy forward burst clear through the centre, Danny Berliner though as so often spread himself superbly to deny him.
The visitors started the second period like a side that had been read the riot act at half time, and their cause was helped when Beerman succumbed to a hamstring injury early in the piece. A re-shuffle saw Dan Green up front, Goodman out wide and Revivo slotting in at full back.
SMFC had plenty more of the ball and it took a full stretch Lions to keep them out as they began to turn possession into pressure on the Lions goal.
The hosts though had chances of their own - Lauffer sliced wide after Ellis knocked down a corner while Green failed to get his head onto either of two delicious Goodman crosses before cutting inside but curling his effort over the bar.
With 20 minutes remaining and the game in the balance an uncharacteristic error from Berg saw his pass intercepted and SMFC breaking on goal. Judah lost out in the first tackle as the forward burst through, proceeding to evade another Lions challenge and apply a fine finish.
Lions pressed again - defeat would really have been hard to take. Marks was getting some joy and the pace of Green was a threat. A debatable offside stopped him in his tracks once, but the second time he latched onto Lauffer's through ball and bore down on goal only to be taken out crudely by the keeper on the edge of the box. The keeper duly received his marching orders but could Lions take advantage? Indeed they could - Ellis calmly curling the free kick home.
A frantic final 10 minutes ensued as Lions pressed for the winner. Goodman won a corner - the SMFC skipper had something to say to the referee and he too was dismissed. Lions couldn't convert form the set play and then following great work from Marks, Green was whisker away from applying the finishing touch.
However, it was probably the nine men that had the two best chances to steal a winner as they caught Lions on the break, first Berliner with a double one-on-one stop and in the dying seconds only an outstanding last-ditch Hyman block prevented the visitors from stealing the points.
Lions will rue their failure to take their chances early, but from there it was an even game played in an excellent spirit, with both sides probably accepting a point but knowing two more were there for the taking.
A late fixture allocation sees league leaders Hadley and local rivals Hadley bring their 100 per cent record to The Lane next Saturday in what's sure to be a real test of this young Lions outfit. It promises to be a cracking game.
Lions Reserves: Danny Berliner, Danny Berg, Myles Beerman (sub: Dan Green), Jonny Ellis, Laurence Judah, Frank Hyman, Ben Lauffer, Shai Revivo, Nick Goodman, Jordan Marks, Levi Levenfiche (sub: Levi Levenfiche)
Scorer: Jonny Ellis