JC MSFL PREMIER DIVISION
FC TEAM A 2 LONDON MACCABI LIONS A 2
FC Team needed an 87th minute goal to get their season off to a solid start as they drew with the Lions at Meadow Park.
After finishing last season as runners-up behind an all-conquering Hendon side and a more settled pre-season, Lions came into season 2012/3 with hope of a successful campaign this time round. A number of new signings has given the squad a more balanced look and will no doubt increase competition for places, both of which can only bode well for the Rowley Lane outfit.
The start of the new season saw Lions travel to Meadow Park in a tricky match-up against the dogged FC Team. On a sweltering day and a small pitch, conditions were never going to be easy for both sets of players.
Lorian Madanes and Mike Pearson both returned to the club for their second and third debuts respectively, whilst Scott Kay and David Nezri were handed their debuts, having both enjoyed successful spells with the Lions youth teams in the past. Sam Singer in goal rounded off the quintet of new faces in the starting 11, whilst there was a place on the bench for new signing Elliott Stern also.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, with the array of new players, Lions began slowly during a sluggish 10-minute opening to the contest before they offered glimpses of future potential in an evenly contested first half.
Pearson went close to breaking the deadlock with an excellent goal bound header, only to be denied twice by some superb reflexes from Ed Bloom in the FC Team goal. Bloom was again called into action just five minutes later, as he tipped the ball expertly round the post to maintain parity. Madanes too, went close to getting on the scoresheet early but he failed to direct his shot on target.
Lions were left to rue these early opportunities when FC Team took the lead against the run of play on 25 minutes. A set-piece was tossed into the box and somehow found its way into the Lions net via the head of stand-in captain Jake Lew, leaving Singer in goal, with no chance.
The response from Lions was swift and effective with the continual running of Pearson and Madanes in particular causing the home side no end of problems.
It was therefore no surprise when it was these two who combined to bring Lions level. Excellent work from Pearson down the left saw him outmuscle two defenders before squaring the ball to the supporting Madanes, who in turn made no mistake with a clinical finish against one of his former clubs.
There was still time in an action-packed half for yet more drama; referee Tony McEvoy somewhat harshly awarding a penalty to the home side after another long free kick into the Lions box. On debut, 17-year-old Sam Singer pounced to his right to emphatically force out the resultant spot kick.
Even at the break, both teams knew it was all to play for in the second and it was Lions who began in the ascendency. Madanes continued his fine work from the first period and the back four appeared relatively comfortable with any of the FC Team advances.
Lions were soon to go into the lead for the first time after a deflected FC Team clearance fell into the path of Madanes, who subsequently strode forward with purpose before rifling the ball home at the near post.
Things weren’t going all Lions’ way however with Pearson having to be replaced due to injury. This did seem to unsettle the away side but in truth they still looked extremely comfortable and well on their way to taking the three points back to Rowley Lane.
The visitors, to their credit, continued to threaten and were eventually rewarded with just three minutes left on the clock. Singer came but could not collect from another Team set piece and after a scramble, Tom Miller managed to head goal wards to trickle into the net. A bitter pill for Lions to swallow in the first game of the season but clearly a lot to build on moving forward throughout the season, as they will be looking to add a consistency to their performances.
FC Team boss Mitch Young told JC Sport: "I am happy with the point. We went 1-0 up and then had the chance to go 2-1 in front with a penalty opportunity that was missed.
"Having gone 1-2 down, we fought back I made the substitutions and we got a deserved equaliser. It was a fair result as both teams were evenly matched and we showed against one of the title favourites that we can match them all the way.
"Last season being 1-2 down to Lions we would have lost so it's a sign of our improvement and new squad strength in depth that we went onto draw.
"Credit to both sets of players who worked tremendously hard. There is a lot of positives to take from the game. It's a long season but we cannot wait for our next game against Norstar."
Lions joint-manager Josh Newman told JC Sport: "The game was played in tricky conditions for both sides and although we were not at our best, there were encouraging signs and certainly positives to build on for the rest of the season."