Final heartbreak for Lions Vets
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Bradley Lazarus gets his shot away under pressure from Tony Gold (Photo: Marc Morris)
VETERANS COUNTY CUP FINAL
LONDON LIONS 1 BUSHEY SPORTS CLUB 3
In the County Cup Final for the first time, Lions, to a man, put in an outstanding shift against overwhelming favourites Bushey Sports Club, who only secured victory in the dying minutes.
Bushey, with a side boasting literally hundreds of Football League appearances between them, chose to defend the ever strengthening wind in the first half, happy to concede possession if not territory to Lions, but quick to counter with their quality attacking players given any chance.
Lions' back-line of Jon Rayner, Andy Myers, Paul Linger and Craig Henry, well screened by Matty Kleinman and Danny Piler, initially dealt well with their defensive duties, but on the quarter hour a ball inside Henry saw Edmunds break towards the box. Myers stretched to make the tackle right on the edge of the box, with the referee adjudging a foul and pointing to the spot. Edmunds dusted himself down and smashed home the spot-kick into the corner beyond Jacobs' despairing dive.
Lions though were anything but rocked, and really began to play some neat football. Paul Lenchner ran tirelessly up front to create spaces for others, with Hadley Silver and Bradley Lazarus delivering some quality ball that saw Bushey's defence, marshalled by ex-pros Junior Lewis and Harvey, at times reduced to last-minute challenges or just hacking the ball clear.
A Linger free-kick from deep swung in but just evaded Silver at the far post, while Lazarus and Reuben both tried their luck from distance.
Lions looked more assured in possession, and a fine move led to a deserved equaliser as Piler and Reuben combined only for the latter's run to be crudely ended on the edge of the area. Lazarus placed the ball with intent, and, with the referee's permission, took it quickly, curling the ball into the net.
Rather than build on this Lions committed the cardinal sin, and with their second mistake of the day almost immediately fell behind again. Kleinman sold Myers short with a pass that was seized upon by ex-Fulham player Hurdle. He was able to skip past the Lions centre half and bore down on goal. His fierce shot brought a fine save from Jacobs, but the ball deflected into the path of the unmarked Fryer who tapped into the vacant net from six yards. Lions appealed in vain for off side and the goal stood.
Again Lions came on strong and finished the half oh so close to a second equaliser when Max Radford, now in the fray, delivered a fine cross that ended with Kleinman's diving header barely inches off target.
Defending the wind was likely to be an altogether different prospect, but what followed was the best 'team half' of football this side has produced. Myers and Linger were simply outstanding at centre half, winning almost every tackle and header. Rayner gave energy and commitment while Henry was a man possessed. On the ball Lions used it sensibly, and it's a measure of how well they played that Jacobs, rather than receive the bombardment he expected, had only to deal with the routine.
Radford and Silver were finding joy from out wide, but the shame was that despite getting into some good areas Lions couldn't quite fashion the clear cut opening to really test the keeper. They changed formation in an effort to make something happen, and Miller's 20 minutes cameo certainly added some late energy, but it just wasn't to be.
And in the end the classiest player on the day, ex-Ipswich/Brighton/Coventry/Barnet man Darren Currie, decided the game with five minutes remaining. His free kick, swung in on the wind, evaded the heads of all but to Jacobs' dismay curled one bounce into the far corner.
Disappointed not to win, Lions should take nothing but great heart from the game. It's a sign that despite all the talent they had on show, Bushey named their centre half, 6'5" Lee Harvey, their man of the match.
The spirit and togetherness of the Lions side shone brightly on the day and does their squad great credit. They'll look to finish the season strongly and, with the addition of one or two new faces in the summer, plan to be back even stronger next time round.
Lions: Dan Jacobs, Jon Rayner, Andrew Myers, Paul Linger, Craig Henry, Matt Kleinman, Dan Piler, Dan Reuben, Hadley Silver, Paul Lenchner, Bradley Lazarus, Max Radford, Andy Miller, Pete Lazard
Man-of-the-match: Dan Piler