Hendon United won't give up title
Faithfold A 1-3 Hendon United A
Game over: Saul Conway kills Faithfold off with the third
Hendon United A manager David Garbacz insisted his side "won't let go of our trophy" after an excellent display took them past Premier Division rivals Faithfold and booked a place against London Lions A in the JC Cyril Anekstein Cup final.
Reflecting on his side's performance, achieved without the services of Alex Gilbert, Josh Bentley and Greg Corin, Garbacz proclaimed Hendon the "best Jewish footballing team in the country," and at times, their pass and move football matched that statement.
Avidan Last was in breathtaking form on the right-wing, twisting and turning Faithfold left-back Dan Howard throughout, including for the decisive strike 15 minutes from time which put his side 2-1 up.
Receiving the ball 20 yards from goal, Last drifted past one man before shifting the ball past Howard, and shooting under Bradley Lee's body.
Lee had made several excellent saves in the second half, the best of which was a palm away from an Alex Gilbert drive, as Hendon United A took control of a game they had struggled to get into in the first 20 minutes.
Faithfold had delivered the first blow when Dan Perkins flicked the ball on for David Lederman, who headed in at the far post to open the scoring. The lead was short-lived as a throw-in was only half cleared by Faithfold A, allowing Dovid Korman to turn and volley home from close range.
The second half followed a similar pattern with Josh Lipman and Ari Last denying Benji Dymant and Alex Levack time and space.
Only the profligacy in front of goal by Dovid Korman and Saul Conway allowed Faithfold A to hang on until 15 minutes from time, when Avidan Last scored the crucial goal. Conway settled it deep into injury time, making it 3-1 with a goal scored after a quick counter-attack.
Garbacz is thrilled that his side are still in league and cup contention. "We are lucky that our basic structure doesn't change even without key players. The likes of Ari and Avidan Last, Paul Bentley, Danny Berliner and Josh Lipman are proving the mainstay of the team.
"If we play like this we can beat anyone between now and the end of the season."
Faithfold A manager Zuriel Solomon cut a frustrated figure. He wants his side to express themselves more freely, accusing them of being "stifled" in big matches: "I always say to the players, 'you are playing football, just enjoy it'. We didn't seem able to relax, and as a result we didn't hit our rhythm."
Faithfold: Lee, Savitz (J. Taylor), A Taylor, Frenner, Howard, Lederman, Dymant, Levack, Cohen, Phillips (sub: Lenchner), Perkins.
Hendon: Berliner, Avishai Last, P. Bentley, Nevies, Gilbert, Avidan Last, Lipman, Ari Last, M. Korman (sub: Kantor); D. Korman, Conway