Cup final underdogs set to take a bite out of Lions

By Danny Caro, April 11, 2008

London Maccabi Lions A will look to complete a hat-trick of victories in the JC Cyril Anekstein Cup when they take on Division One high-flyers Chigwell Athletic B at Wingate & Finchley on Sunday night. Chigwell are one of the first teams from outside the top-flight to reach the final this century. Russell Green’s men stunned last season’s league winners Hendon United A in the previous round with former Wingate & Finchley player Greg Bookman their hero in a 2-1 win.

Russell Green said: “We are the massive underdogs, but I believe we can win, otherwise there would be no point in turning up.

“The experience of playing in a final is one all the boys will remember for some time, whatever the result. The semi-final win over Hendon has given us confidence and we know that Lions are beatable. They have a reputation for being well organised. They like to play football and keep the ball and have a squad that is strong enough to cope with anything.

We go into this game with nothing to lose and confidence that we can also play a bit and maybe become the Barnsley of Maccabi football. Whatever the score, Lions will know that they have been in a tough game as we will battle for everything until the final whistle.”

Chigwell chairman Richard Slater said: “It is a great achievement for the B team to reach the League Cup final against all odds. If Greg Bookman is on song then you can throw the form book out the window as everyone at the club believes they can bring the Trophy to Chigwell.”

Managed by Eilon Kennet and Ben Winston, the Lions, who beat Chigwell’s A team earlier in the competition, were somewhat fortunate to retain the trophy last season after beating North West Neasden A in extra time. In 2006, they claimed a narrow win over Faithfold A.

Michael Pearson, the 2005-06 JC MSFL Player of the Season, appears the biggest threat. Having recently returned from a hamstring injury, the former Aldershot Town marksman looked back to his best on rep team duty a fortnight ago. Preparations for the match were hampered when keeper Mike Elvey suffered a broken finger playing for London Lions last Saturday.

Midfield maestro Aviel Schwarz is looking forward to his 11th League Cup final. As per the Peter Morrison Trophy final, he has won five and lost five. The Peter Pan of Jewish football was quick to point out that Chigwell B are “not the first team from outside the top-flight to reach the final”. MAL have qualified from Division One and Two, under the auspices of Barnett Horowitz. They lost to Marshside and Faithfold A.

Kennet said: “Chigwell B are a serious match for anyone. The fact that they play in Division One should not mislead anyone into thinking they are not good enough to play at the top level.

“If you look at their players, it’s clear that they are not B team players, but more a group of friends who want to play together.

“Their manager Russell Green is very ambitious and determined and we expect them to be very well organised, skilful and committed.

“We are very proud to be the holders of this trophy and we want to win it for a third time in a row, but we are under no illusion about Chigwell’s desire to wrench it away from us. It’s always hard to repeat success and we are taking nothing for granted.”

Looking back at the season so far, joint-boss Ben Winston commented: “It’s been a very frustrating season for us. We didn’t start with a particularly big squad and definitely paid a heavy price for this.

“The list of absentees tells its own story. For one reason or another we lost 11 players who featured regularly last season and there is no doubt this hurt our campaign. Last year we had cover in every position and players had to perform at their best to be selected.

“This apart, we don’t think we were very far off the pace, taking important points off the big teams, but what we lacked this season was consistency. Nevertheless, we will continue to battle as best we can for the league runners-up position, but before that there is the matter of the League Cup to deal with.

“This is not just about winning another trophy. If we can play to our potential we will have the chance of keeping this trophy for a third year in a row and we are taking this very seriously.”

Last updated: 4:29pm, May 28 2008