Lions bounce back in style
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London Lions returned to winning ways with a comfortable 3-0 success in their first ever meeting with Arlesey Town.
SPARTAN SOUTH MIDLANDS LEAGUE DIVISION ONE
LONDON LIONS 3 ARLESEY TOWN 0
Lions made several changes to the side that lost the previous game to Risborough Rangers, with Kyle Bentwood, David Soutar, Andy Glynne and Sam Sloma coming in.
James Belchak made his first start of the season in an unfamiliar role on the wide right of midfield Sloma and Joe Sharpe got the match underway with the Lions attacking the goal up the small slope.
It was the visitors who were first to attack and within five minutes Mario Cenolli had to make a good save at full stretch to turn an attempt from 15 yards around his left hand post.
Josh Kennet mounted a counter-attack, but it was Sloma who grabbed the Lions first chance of the afternoon but his header from eight yards was slightly misjudged and the visiting keeper made an easy safe whilst initially expecting to be picking the ball out of the net.
The visitors then forced Bentwood into fouling the no. 11 on the Lions right and Arlesey's no. 6 sent over a dangerous ball into the Lions box that Alex Lee managed to narrowly head clear.
Lions forged ahead midway through the first half when joint-player-manager Tony Gold set Sloma free down the left and the former Dagenham man looked up and saw Belchak steaming into the box finding him with a pinpoint pass. The young Lion took the ball perfectly in his stride and showing composure beyond his years, he calmly placed the ball passed the exposed keeper.
Arlesey came close on 38 minutes when number 10 burst through on the Lions keeper but Cenolli was at his brilliant best and made a great block to keep the visitors out.
As the half drew to a close Arlesey tried hard to recover from their one goal deficit, but the Lions held out for a well deserved half time lead.
The second half continued with the home side looking the much more likely to score. Kennet was narrowly beaten to the ball by the Arlesey keeper and then Belchak forced a corner on the right. When Kennet's corner was sent over Lee's header on target was turned away by a defender on the line.
The home side then increased their lead with a 60th minute goal. Sloma's free-kick out wide on the Lions left was delivered wickedly, Sharpe just narrowly failed to connect but Rafi Soccairello was charging in at the far post and his deft header back across the keeper dropped in beautifully to make the score-line 2-0.
The Lions back four continued to thwart any danger with Soutar and Lee particularly impressive. The third goal came on 70 minutes and it came from Kennet forcing his way into the left side of the penalty box and finishing well, driving the ball across the keeper into the bottom corner of the goal.
Laurence Judah and Adam Hakimi replaced Gold and Glynne respectively with 18 minutes remaining to add some fresh legs and ensure Lions kept their first clean sheet of the season.
Zac Rose then replaced Belchak who had given everything in the 80 minutes he had been on the park, his goal being just reward for a good afternoons work.
Arlesey tried a few runs and rattled a fine shot wide left in the closing stages but it was Lions day, three goals and three points.
"Andy, Steve and myself have been saying that the team has been playing well, we took our chances today which we didn't do against Risborough and I thought that we could have had two or three more," Gold explained after the game.
"In the opening 10 minutes Arlesey had a great chance that forced Cenolli to make a great save. That chance came after we had given the ball away in midfield. It was due to a sloppy pass in the middle of the park that should never have happened.
"However, it seemed to provide the jolt that we needed and from there on we controlled the game and played some great football.
"In the three games so far we have played well, it is just in the Risborough defeat we didn't take our chances when they came around.
"It was nice to get in front for a change and when you get the first goal it makes all the difference.
"There were some really good performances today and it was pleasing to see James and Rafi get a goal apiece. They have both worked incredible hard pre-season and that hard work is starting to show. Slome's was also top drawer today and did everything but score a goal himself.
"Mario, Souts, Glynney and Alex were also immense, it really was a great team effort. "Harpenden next week will be a completely different proposition. I don't take too much notice of the league table until at least 10 games in, but it is hard not to notice who is top and that is where our opponents next week currently sits."
Lions: Cenolli, Gold (sub: Judah), Soutar, Bentwood, Kennet (capt), Sharpe, Glynne (sub: A. Hakimi), Belchak (sub: Rose), Soccairello, Lee, Sloma