JC MSFL Div 2:
LM Lions C 1 NL Raiders B 2
North London Raiders gave their season a massive boost on a wind-swept Sunday morning with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over division two leaders London Maccabi Lions C.
L'orange fought back from a goal down showing resilience and a great deal of tenacity, equalising through a truly stunning Nicky Woolf effort and securing all three points through captain Rik Sherman's 25-yard free kick.
Much has been made of Raiders injury crisis over the last few weeks with no fewer than six players out with long term injuries. Richman was therefore delighted that he didn't lose a further three players before kick off after Silver, Woolf and Miller all passed late fitness tests to take their place for this all important clash.
Lions had won seven out of eight this season and were clear favourites but Raiders had their own reason for optimism after doing the double over Lions last season on their way to division three glory.
Lions had much the better of the first 25 minutes as the Raiders youngsters struggled to settle and looked nervous against their more experienced counterparts.
Paul Buxton and Craig Henry for Lions took an early grip on affairs and it was to nobody's surprise when Lions took the lead.
A Paul Buxton corner was partially cleared by Simnock in the Raiders goal but given a second chance to deliver Buxton did not fail. His delivery found Ed Zneimer unmarked and he gleefully steered the ball past the despairing Simnock.
The goal though galvanised Raiders and it was Steve Silver the likeable, affable but invariably crazy Australian who grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck.
Along with Haring and Sherman, Silver rallied the troops and then drove the team forward, winning umpteen headers and tackles for his beloved Raiders.
The visitors' equaliser was one of real beauty, a hopeful ball over the top by Miller was hunted down by Woolf. Looking second favourite to get to the ball, Woolf put on the afterburners and used his strength to outmuscle the Lions centre back. Then from the most acute of angle Woolf nonchanlantly lobbed the ball over the keeper and into the back of the net. A truly sensational goal which had all spectators clapping in awe at what they had just seen.
At half time Raiders knew this was their opportunity to put a marker down and haul themselves back into the title race.
The second half began in competitive fashion and Silver was soon in the referee's notebook for an over-exuberant challenge. The game though was anything but dirty played in competitive but fair fashion with some excellent refereeing from Burns.
The turning point came after an hour, Lions strode forward with purpose and a lovely flowing move saw their centre forward through on goal with just Simnock to beat. Simnock relishing the one-on-one confrontations saved at the feet of the attacker before getting up to bravely block the rebound that looked destined for the back of the net. The ball though still broke loose and Bloom came to his teams rescue clearly the ball off the line. For his troubles Simnock took a boot to his head but soon regained his composure to continue in goal.
Soon after when it looked like a draw may be on the cards the team in orange clinched the winner. Again Silver was involved hassling down the opposition and forcing a free kick 25 yards out to the right of the goal perfect for a left-footer. Up strode the captain Rik Sherman who struck the ball low, precisely and (not very) powerful into the corner. The keeper, unsighted until the last moment, could not get down in time and Raiders had completed a deserved turn around.
The last 20 minutes Lions pressed but led by Stuart Haring and Sherman, Raiders repelled all the Lions attacks.
In truth Raiders really should have out the game to bed with Rob Samuelson, Daren Russell and Ben Hart wasting good chances when well placed.
In the end the misses were unimportant as Raiders could celebrate a tough but pleasing victory.
After the game Richman said: "I think it was a very tight affair, Lions dominated early on but we came very much back into the game. At one-one Simnock produced two outstanding saves and that was the turning point of the game as after that we stepped up a gear and got the winner.
"Today was a true team performance, every one of the 14 made a huge contribution and if we continue at the same level the season will only go from strength to strength."