Barnes late show boosts Lions
Herts Senior County League Premier Division
Knebworth 1 - London Lions 2
An injury time strike from Aron Barnes helped London Lions get back to winning ways as the won 2-1 at Knebworth.
Knebworth was the place to be on Saturday if you were looking for heart pounding, back-to-the-wall, edge of the seat stuff as London Lions roared to a narrow win.
With Met Police setting an incredible pace at the top of the Herts Prem League it was important for Lions to stay in contention with just one point separating the top two but with Met Police having what could be a vital game in hand.
They say football games are not won in the first minute and London Lions certainly followed that saying to the latter as they scored the winning goal deep into injury time.
Playing on a surface more conducive to agriculture farming, there was some debate as to whether or not the game should have been played at all. Lions down to the bare bones in terms of personnel with Guy Morris, Lee Cash, Rob Glass, Danny Berg, Sam Reeves, Nick Goodman and Danny Castle either injured, suspended or away, turned up with a squad of 13 including a call up to the first team for young Ross Pincus.
Winning the toss, Lions decided to kick up the slope in order to try and have the advantage of the downhill slope in the second half but all that went out the window after 12 minutes when Guy Helman was dismissed for foul and abusive language leaving the visitors to play the remaining 78 minutes with 10 men.
Unable to come to terms with the difficulties of the pitch, both sides struggled to play any sort of free flowing football with the ball being lumped on when ever the opportunity to do so arose.
Knebworth started the better and bombarded the Lions goal in the first 10 minutes. Firstly Ben Ellis headed a ball off the line from a corner and then Matt Davis made an outstanding one-handed save from a vicious shot just inside the box.
Life was then to become even harder as Helman received his marching orders. Reverting to a 4-3-2, the Lions had no choice but to sacrifice a very unfortunate Ellis and bring on Adam Lauffer at right-back to replace the departed Helman.
The Lions were now going to have to dig in their heels and show a tremendous togetherness and team spirit to get anything from the game.
Barnes nearly put the Lions ahead but his well struck shot hit the inside of the post and flew out. Then a catalogue of mistakes including scuffed shots, mis-kicks, horrible bobbles and diverts started to make the game look like something more relevant to the circus and added more reason as to why the game perhaps should not have been played.
Knebworth continued to feel upbeat with the numerological advantage and the fact they had the slope in their favour. Their persistence eventually paid off as they took the lead when Lions failed to deal with a routine cross and the ball fell invitingly for the Knebworth forward to smash home.
The floodgates could easily have opened up with the Lions feeling sorry for themselves but instead they rose to the challenge of having only 10 men and being a goal down.
With two minutes of the half left Lions deservedly equalised through Dominique Cheniart after the Knebworth keeper fumbled his shot into the goal and that was just the tonic the visitors needed.
Now with the slope in their advantage the Lions lay siege on the Knebworth goal, even with a man less. Cheniart had to be replaced due to an ankle injury by Pincus who made his first team debut.
Eddie Manson, who was immense throughout, had a chance to put the Lions ahead but his header went over the bar. Ben Lauffer then blasted over when well placed followed by Ben Lampert shooting just wide when perhaps he should have done better.
It looked like it was just going to be one of those days especially when with 10 minutes left Stolerman went through one-on-one and with the ball just unable to settle
saw his shot saved by the on-rushing keeper.
Adam Myeroff was then thrown up front with Barnes, who had pulled his hammy, as Lions went 2-3-4 for the last five minutes.
With Manson and Adam Lauffer defending two 5 on 2 break away situations following Lions desperate bid to find a winner the unbelievable happened.
Entering the 94th minute of stoppage time a long punt up to the front four dropped into the Knebworth box and after a crazy melee dropped to the injured Barnes. Fluffing his first attempt at getting his shot away due to the excruciating pain in his hamstring the ball somehow fell invitingly to him again and he made no mistake second time around as he smashed the ball home to the delirious screams of the Lions bench, players and watching supporters.
That goal was everything the Lions deserved for a quite outstanding persistent performance against the odds and keeps them close on the Police’s heels.
An exhausted Steve Grenfell said after the game: "Given the horrendous pitch conditions, the fact the lads played 78 minutes with 10 men and with the players we have missing this goes down as one of the top results of the season.
"The lads really have come a huge way since last year because make no mistake about it this is a game they would have lost last year season.
"We now have three home games on the bounce and a few players back from injury, suspension and holiday so the loss of Helman and Cash for the run-in hopefully won’t be felt too much."
Lions: Matt Davis, Guy Helman, Eddie Manson, Ben Lampert, Adam Myeroff, Ben Lauffer, Adam Stolerman, Dominic Cheniart (sub: Ross Pincus), Ben Ellis (sub: A. Lauffer), Tony Gold, Aron Barnes
Man-on-the-match: Eddie Manson (Lions)