Sunday FA Cup Round 2: Duke of Rutland 0 London Maccabi Lions A 2
The magic of the FA Cup is something you hear professional footballers talk about all the time. London Maccabi Lions produced one of those magic moments with a splendid 2-0 victory over a physically strong and well equipped Duke of Rutland team containing no fewer then six players playing Southern League Division One football.
Without doubt this win goes down as one of the clubs greatest achievements in recent memories. Played in front of a partisan crowd of just over 120 spectators with the visitors only support coming in the shape of a very excited David Snellman, an apprehensive Neil Myeroff and a very proud Mr Stanley, the game started at a frantic pace.
It was clear from the start that the Lions were going to have to produce something special to eventually win the game as Rutland imposed their physical presence on the game added with some excellent wing play from their Nuneaton Town stars.
Although the initial play was a little scrappy from both sides chances were aplenty. The returning Mike Pearson, who was a handful all afternoon, had an early chance to open the scoring but his little dink over the keeper lacked pace and the covering defender managed to clear the ball off the line just in time.
Matt Davis in the Lions goal then produced two world class saves to keep the visitors firmly in the game. Firstly he prevented an own goal from Adam Lauffer by scooping the ball off the line, then secondly producing a stunning one handed save from a bullet header.
The home side continued to probe but the Lions rearguard of Adam Lauffer, Raanan Firmin, Adam Myeroff and Tony Gold held firm.
On the rare occasion the Lions did get forward two more chances came and went, Pearson seeing his glancing header fantastically saved by the Rutland keeper then Ben Lauffer suffering the same fate from a well struck volley.
The home side then really dug in getting a strong foot hold on the game winning virtually every header, tackle and producing some fine attacking football.
The first booking of the game went to Rutland after Andy Myers was cynically fouled in the centre circle with the perpetrator lucky to escape with just a yellow card.
Quite incredibly the teams went in level 0-0 at the break but the home side must have been wondering how they failed to score with most of the possession and chances coming their way.
With Myers still feeling the effects of the late tackle bestowed upon him and clearly frustrated by the lack of support and bottle around him, he deservedly and quite rightly ripped into his players demanding more desire and heart.
Clearly roused by the injection of passion during the half-time teamtalk, the Lions returned to the hostile arena a new animal and for the next 45 minutes produced an outstanding 45 minutes of football.
By now the home support was in good voice as they tried very hard to intimidate the visitors but it had little impact as Lions blanked out the noise and got stuck into their opponents showing they could actually give as good as they got.
As the game wore on it looked like extra-time was a distinct possibility, but the Lions had other ideas and completely ripped up the script silencing the crowd with the opening goal of the game on 74 minutes.
Gold played an inch perfect ball down the line to the alert Pearson, who cushioned the ball back to Ben Lauffer. Opening his legs and getting a yard on his marker he let rip a fierce shot that hit the post and ricocheted out to the supporting Fieldgrass. Showing tremendous composure Fieldgrass picked his spot and stroked the ball home sending his teammates and David Snellman into raptures with the latter doing a "David Pleat" running half way down the pitch and almost getting killed by the home fans in the process.
With an eerie silence descending around the pitch the only noise that could be heard now was the euphoric jubilation the Lions players were sharing following the goal.
Rutland clearly shaken and stunned by the goal couldn't find the rhythm which they had in abundance in the first 45 minutes and Lions took full advantage of the fact. Clearly the fitter side by now the Lions were in full control of the game and with five minutes remaining delivered the final killer blow.
Fieldgrass once again showing great presence of mind slipped a perfectly weighted pass into the path of Danny Castle who didn't need a second invitation to lash the ball home and once again spark wild celebrations amongst the Lions players.
In what proved to be a fantastic game of football, Lions turned in a 5 star performance and are deservedly in the hat for the next round. They meet Stanbridge & Tillsworth next.
Joint manager Tony Gold said after the exhausting 90 minutes: "This competition puts you up against the best Sunday teams in the country and every game you play asks your players serious questions both mentally and physically.
"Today, exactly like in the previous round, every player rose to the occasion and more then answered those questions.
"We took longer to settle then we should have and with a bit of luck and thanks to Matt Davis producing to world class saves we were given a fighting chance in the second-half which we took full advantage of.
"Andy quite rightly read the riot act at half-time and the lads responded producing an outstanding 45 minutes of football especially Max Fieldgrass, Mike Pearson and Andy himself which allowed us to go and win the game.
"When you realise and understand the quality your players are facing in this competition and you get a positive result like this it builds a tremendous belief and confidence and makes winning even sweeter.
"Given the fact we were 100 miles from home, playing in front of a hostile crowd, not helped by the fact that David "The Hayemaker" Snellman, did everything possible to wind them up even more and with a team containing no less then six players all playing a fantastically good level of Saturday semi-professional football, this really is one of the clubs greatest team performances and the players deserve a fantastic amount of credit for it".
Lions: Matt Davis, Adam Myeroff, Raanan Firmin, Tony Gold (sub: David Rose), Max Fieldgrass, Andrew Myers (sub: James Stanley), Daniel Castle, Ben Lauffer, Adam Lauffer, Mike Pearson
Man of the match: Max Fieldgrass