Lions edged out by Harpenden
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Tony Gold, manager of London Lions, picked the positives out of the Tuesday's 2-1 defeat against Harpenden Town in the South Midlands League Division One.
A gutsy Lions performance went unrewarded as they went down fighting.
Missing 13 of the 21 players he has already used in the four matches this season, seven changes were enforced following Saturday’s defeat at St. Albans. Myles Beerman, Danny Berg, Jordan Marks, David Cohen and Max Kyte all made their first appearances of the season for the team - taking the tally of players used to 25.
It was without doubt the youngest and most inexperienced Lions side that has ever taken to a field at this level.
Gold said: "The performance was without doubt the best of the season so far. With a little more luck and composure at both ends of the park, we would have at the very least left Harpenden with a point."
As it was defensive frailties in the Lions back four once again reared their ugly head and Matthew Lord in the Harpenden goal had an outstanding game making some crucial saves to deny Lions any advantage.
What had been missing from the last two games for Lions in terms of energy, desire, work rate, commitment and belief they had in abundance last night.
Beerman produced a performance beyond his years in the centre of the defence, while Ben Lampert provided another solid display at left back and TJ Keterman proved that, if gets his mind focused on the job at hand, he can effect a game and he produced a man-of-the-match performance.
From kick-off Lions had a hunger, whatever manager Gold and coach Steve Grenfell said to them before the game seemed to work. Gold later described the Harpenden pitch as "an utter disgrace" and he was relieved that players from both teams came away injury free.
Jordan Marks, who has only just turned 17, set the scene in the first 30 seconds as he raced down the left wing, cut inside the tenacious Harpenden full-back and saw his shot just drift wide of the far post.
Josh Kennet, who is getting stronger and stronger with each game, then looked like he had put Lions in front. Twenty five yards from goal, he smashed a loose ball which was heading for the top corner but out of nowhere Lord in the Harpenden goal pulled off a breathtaking save.
Lions continued to build and were dominating proceedings. Steve Summers worked tirelessly up front, causing unrest in the home sides defence. Dean Nyman, Andy Glynne, Kennet, Keterman and Marks showed good movement, passing and energy to keep Harpenden pegged back.
However, for all their endeavour, the Lions soon found themselves a goal down, against the run of play.
Having switched off for a second, Lions failed to follow Chris Ellis’s late run from midfield and he latched on to a loose ball and blasted his shot past an exposed Danny Berliner in the Lions goal.
It was a harsh lesson for Lions which once again highlighted the frailties they have. Every mistake made invariable is punished at this level and in a game they deserved to be at the very least level in they suddenly found themselves chasing.
It would have been easy for heads to drop and the confidence to dwindle but once again Lions took the game by the throat and continued to work hard and push their opponents back.
At the break, manager Gold would have taken heart from the first 45 minutes and with a little more composure could still believe his side could win the game.
Lions continued where they left off, however this time for the first 15 minutes of the second half they completely had Harpenden pinned back in their own half. However, with all the possession and endeavour they just could not find that all important goal to get them back in the game.
Just as it looked like it was a matter of time before Lions levelled, sucker punch No. 2 hit them right between the legs.
Lampert, who had a superb night, misread his distance between ball and man and allowed Ryan Deny's to spin him and drill a good finish past Berliner.
The scoreline now completely flattered Harpenden but the difference between the two sides was they were being far more clinical at either end.
With 30 minutes remaining, David Cohen replaced the tiring Summers with Kyte and Avi Schwarz following shortly after, replacing Marks and Berg respectively.
Reverting to a 3-4-3 Gold decided to throw everything at it to try and find a way back into the game. Within 10 minutes of his introduction Cohen pulled a goal back. Keterman hit a wonderful free-kick which the keeper parried and Cohen was on hand to tuck the rebound away.
In the final 20 minutes Lions continued to probe as Harpenden dug in and cleared wave after wave of attack but the visitors just could not find that all deserving equaliser.
A disappointed Gold said: "Football can be a cruel game sometimes and tonight the lads have nothing to show for what has a very spirited and committed performance.
"We certainly deserved at the very least a point but at the moment nothing is going our way.
"To say the situation I currently face is difficult is a huge understatement. I feel badly let down by certain senior players as their overall commitment to the cause has been at best flaky. However, after tonight, I can take many positives especially from the inexperienced and younger players.
"I would love to build on our performance moving forward on to Saturday but once again several players who played tonight are not available and so the cycle starts all over again.
"At the moment it feels like I am playing one big game of snake and ladders.
"OK, we didn’t get the result tonight but this 90 minutes sets the standard for what we are trying to achieve. We gave away two terrible goals but we re-grouped and the players showed magnificent character to fight back and with a little more luck things would have been different.
"Until we get everyone back and know exactly where we stand as a squad all I can ask for is that whichever 11 players take to the field, they give exactly what this group of lads gave tonight - superb energy, work-rate and commitment."
Lions: Danny Berliner, Danny Berg (sub: Aviel Schwarz), Myles Beerman, Kyle Bentwood, Ben Lampert, Josh Kennet, TJ Keterman, Andy Glynne, Jordan Marks (sub: Max Kyte), Steve Summers (sub: David Cohen), Dean Nyman
Man-of-the-match: TJ Keterman