Lions wounded by late equaliser
South Midlands League Division One
London Lions 3 Bedford 3
London Lions played out a six-goal thriller against Bedford, although Tony Gold's men will be kicking themselves having come from behind only to concede a last-gasp equaliser.
A topsy-turvy affair saw the Lions roar in front from a cheeky David Soutar backheel, drew level later in the game through an Adam Myeroff penalty and went in front with Kyle Bentwood's first goal for the club, but they were denied victory in the final minutes due to a stroke of bad luck following an unfortunate own goal that went off keeper Mario Cenolli after hitting the crossbar.
Gold was forced into three changes due to injury and player unavailability. This allowed Danny Berg to return in an unfamiliar role in the holding midfield position, whilst Daniel Stanton and Mario Cenolli returned to the spine of the team. A fourth change saw Michael Sacks back return. He took up refuge on the Lions bench.
Despite some tough challenges and tenacity from Bedford in the opening half-an-hour, they couldn't test Cenolli and their first effort on goal ended up being an undeserved equaliser.
Lions had dominated proceedings before they conceded that untimely leveller but in truth they should have been at least three goals up. When Soutar put Lions in front following a cheeky back heeled goal from a Josh Kennet corner there was only one team in the game.
A host of missed chances from Dean Nyman, Ricky Engleman, Soutar and an incredible save from the Bedford keeper to deny Kennet when clean through always gave the visitors hope.
Despite all the extended pressure and efforts on goal it was hard to believe Lions were going in at the break level.
Taking into account the missed opportunities and sustained dominance, Lions weren't actually playing particularly well. As the second half got under way and within 10 minutes Lions were behind following Adam Myeroff's rash challenge in the penalty box giving the referee no option but to award a penalty.
The spot kick was superbly saved by Cenolli and with the goal gapping the follow up was blasted over the bar.
Then just when you think you have seen it all and nothing more could surprise you, the referee astonishingly asked for the penalty kick to be retaken. According to the official due to a Lions player encroaching before the penalty kick was taken and explaining that Bedford didn't benefit from the advantage because the ball was blasted over the bar from the save, the kick needed to be retaken. The retaken spot kick was buried and Bedford were 2-1 up.
The Lions management had seen enough and minutes later Ben Ellis and Michael Sacks were introduced into the fold with the team reverting to a 3-4-3.
The introduction of Sacks had an immediate effect, challenging for a high ball in the Bedford box he was bundled over and Lions themselves were rewarded with a penalty.
Making amends from his earlier misdemeanour, Myeroff stepped up to coolly slot home. With 15 minutes remaining either side still had time to claim all three points.
With the game in the balance Lions took the lead going from 2-1 down to 3-2 up and must have thought they had bagged all three points. Sacks again was instrumental in the build up, with Bentwood adding the final touch with his head.
Nevertheless the visitors had the last say with a rather fortunate late equaliser. A speculative shot from 20 yards rattled the Lions bar dropped onto the back of the diving Cenolli's arm and ended up in the back of the goal.
With two minutes remaining, Ellis missed what was arguably the best chance of the game. Having done superbly to break away from his marker and bearing down on goal, one-on-one with the keeper, he somehow managed to shoot wide when in truth we should have scored.
Gold said: "We should have seen the game out, especially with the chances we created and ultimately failed to convert.
"We were excellent for the first 35 minutes, but we didn't show the right levels of professionalism to see the game out when we had the opportunity. Regardless of who we are playing once you get your noses in front you've got to keep it there.
"I thought we did more than enough to win the game, especially in the first half but not for the first time this season we lacked a clinical edge at both ends of the pitch and what should have been three points ended up only one.
"On a positive note, the lads showed real character to come back from 2-1 down to lead 3-2 and with only three defeats in our last 14 games that shows how far we have come this season."