Hammers ready to burst double bubble
Newly crowned JC MSFL champions North West Neasden A will look to complete the league and cup double when they take on last season’s league winners Hendon United A in the final of the Peter Morrison Trophy on Sunday afternoon.
Neasden, whose chairman is Sammy Carr, are no strangers to Wingate & Finchley and they are sure to bring a healthy following in their pursuit of more silverware. Having beaten the Hammers home and away in the league this season, manager Jamie Cole believes they have the psychological edge going into the game.
“For the past few years, Neasden have been the nearly team,” Cole said. “But on our day we know we could beat anyone as we have always had exceptional players. It was finding that consistency and maintaining our high levels week in, week out that was missing.
“We have shown great consistency in the league this season. Our defence has been immense. We went on a streak of not conceding a goal in eight matches which is unheard of at this level. There is a nice blend of youth and experience, and a togetherness that has taken us to a new level. Let’s hope they are all rewarded for a great season by winning the double.”
The Jewish FA Cup holds fond memories for Cole’s assistant, Daniel Fox who won the competition as a player in 2000. Having been forced into early retirement after cartilage operations on both knees, he said: “I played in a great Neasden team back then but the current crop of players we have assembled puts us in a different league now.”
Neasden’s defence has conceded just 13 times in 17 league games and their strikeforce, much like their team spirit, is second to none in Jewish football with Lee Cash, Ryan Sher, Adam Stolerman and Cambridge University starlet Matt Stock helping the team become top scorers in the top-flight with 60 goals.
Captain Cash tops the Premier Division’s scoring charts with 18 strikes and he is the team’s top-scorer in the competition with six. The goal-poacher has featured in the top three of the league scoring charts for five of the last six years. Stolerman, who has scored 24 goals for London Lions in the Herts Senior County League football on Saturdays, has earned the role of supersub.
But it is Matt Stock that Hendon need fear most. He scored four times for Cambridge University in the recent Varsity win over Oxford and before taking a year off in France, he will want to bow out on a high. He looks a strong contender for the Maccabiah Games team next year. Hendon boss Jonathan Kestenbaum knows Cash, Stock, Adam Levene, Jake Gottlieb and Josh Rosenfeld well after picking them for his rep team this season. He is currently juggling three managerial hats, combining Hendon’s cup charge along with that of being Team GB open manager in Israel in 2009 and running the rep team.
Kestenbaum has been the man with the midas touch over the past couple of seasons, leading Hendon to the Division One and Premier Division titles in consecutive seasons — the first team to complete this achievement, and masterminding a 17-match winning run this season.
While Cole has claimed two wins over Kestenbaum in the league, the Hammers boss ended Neasden’s treble hopes with victory in the quarter-finals of the JC Cyril Anekstein Cup. His football CV rivals the best in the Jewish game including playing for LSE 1sts, winning a half blue at Cambridge and the league and cup as a player with Hillgar.
He has also represented Great Britain at Maccabiah level and, in his third season as manager of Hendon, he has landed two league titles and three cup semi-final slots. He believes it is time that the reds went from nearly men to champions in cup football. He said: “We had an appalling start to the season, claiming one point out of a possible nine. And then we encountered a quite exceptional Neasden side who are worthy champions. Having said that, we went on a run of 17 successive wins and discovered that the line between winning things and falling short is a very thin one.
“But the cup is a different matter. We are looking forward to this game immensely, not just because of the occasion but because the players want to make up for the defeat against Neasden last month. Take nothing away from them in that game as they have been outstanding all season. But the Hendon players have been counting the minutes to this game. They know they underperformed that day.”
The Hendon squad is something of a family affair. They have three pairs of brothers in their make-up with the Lasts (Ari and Avidan), Bentleys (Josh and Paul) and Kormans (Motti and Dovid) hoping to make the starting line-up. Thirteen of the 15 players live within 500 yards of one another in Hendon and 12 members are former Hasmonean schoolmates. And the Maccabi League trophy has been on display at Hendon United Synagogue this year. Kestenbaum, whose team have had arguably the tougher cup run, hopes that Greg Corin performs well against his former club.
Dovid Korman, the youngest player in the Hendon squad, has timed his return from Israel to perfection and is definitely one for Neasden to watch out for. The manager has plenty of respect for Sunday’s opponents, saying: “Neasden have a squad of 21 exceptional players. I wouldn’t want to single out anyone. I imagine all watching, on the basis of form and past record, expect Neasden to win - but you never know.”