Big Ben strikes four for Lions reserves
Four goals from Ben Ellis capped a superb second half display of crisp passing and clinical finishing as London Lions reserves eventually cruise into the second round of the League Cup with a comprehensive 7-0 victory over Buntingford Town.
With the pitch at Rowley Lane back to its resplendent best, Lions kicked off this first Round League Cup tie full of hope that they could continue their recent good form.
Once again the side boasted a few changes, the most notable a debut for 17-year-old Sam Kutner who completed his first 90 minutes of senior football. Calm and assured from the off he really grew into the game and is certainly one who'll grace the senior section for years to come.
Lions’ start though was a little sluggish - whilst dominating possession and passing the ball in their usual style, too many flicks or too many touches saw their well organised opponents able to snuff out most of Lions’ attacking play with a little too much ease for the comfort of Green and Jacobs.
In fact were it not for one very smart save one on one by Danny Berliner Lions could have trailed.
Slowly though the home side settled - Ross on the end of a neat one-two with Ori Kobi that was well finished only for the linesman’s flag to rule it out with a marginal call.
Next Myers should really have scored - neat play down the right saw a stinging low ball cut out the keeper that Myers’ studs just got hold of.
The covering defender hacked clear from the line, Myers and the Lions insistent though that the ball had crossed the line.
And the Lions centre half was left frustrated again moments later. Striding out with the ball from the back he kept his run going as Becker, Kobi and finally Lazarus combined to tee him up with a delicious cross that saw his header clip the post.
It was now one way traffic - and having escaped several times Buntingford’s resistance was finally broken as, just before the interval, captain Tim Becker struck a ferocious volley from the edge of the box that flew past the keeper into the top corner.
Birthday boy Green demanded more from his players in the second half - and more is certainly what he got. Anderson and Revivo, both returning from injury, were replaced by Reuben and Gold, and, almost from the off, Lions were at their visitors.
Knocking the ball about at pace it was no surprise when Becker's through ball released Ross; although his effort was excellently saved Ross reacted quickly to the loose ball and cut back for Ellis to sweep home brilliantly on the volley.
The floodgates were now open. Ellis demonstrated the art of one on one finishes with two more fine goals to complete his second hat-trick of the season before Lazarus allowed one to roll across his body before manufacturing an audacious curling effort from the angle of the box that found the very top corner for a quite stunning goal. He doubled his personal tally 10 minutes from time, this time nodding home from Reuben's inch perfect cross.
And a seventh was duly added, this time Kobi’s close control saw him dribble past three challengers before slipping in Ellis to round the keeper and slot home his fourth.
Buntingford’s misery was compounded in the latter stages when the referee awarded them a sympathetic penalty, but Berliner was not about to give up his clean sheet, plunging low to make the initial stop and then reacting bravely to smother the loose ball. Like so many around him the Lions keeper really is on top of his game.
The second half was all that’s been good about Lions this season. The blend of youth and experience allowing them to get the ball down and play in the right manner, a manner that, on this day, was too much for Buntingford to handle.
Tougher challenges though lie ahead and a real test of how far they've come arrives now as they play defending champions and league leaders Codicote two weeks running in both the County Cup and then the League. Competition for places too is hotting up as several key performers of recent seasons come back from injury - right now Lions is a good place to be....