Knights are top
JC MSFL Div 4: Pinner JFC 1 East London Knights 3
A brace from player-manager James Ryan and Justin Bell helped the Knights go clear at the top of the table.
The latest instalment of the Knights debut season took them to the Roger Bannister Playing Fields to take on struggling Pinner JFC.
It was to be the second meeting between the two sides already this season following the Knights 6-2 romp at Wanstead Flats. However, East London were not going to take Pinner lightly and fielded arguably their strongest available team; with all three centre backs absent and midfield maestro Zachary Forest unavailable due to ‘illness'.
Pinner were looking to bounce back from a disappointing ‘basement battle' defeat last weekend at the hands of Real Life.
Due to the conditions overnight it was evident early on that East London were not going to be able to pay their normal free flowing football that Division 4 had become accustomed to.
However after first five minutes player-manager Ryan struck for his ninth league goal of the campaign. The Knights were awarded a free kick on the corner of the 18 yard box for a foul on Simon Marks and it was his younger brother Michael who delivered a dangerous in-swinging cross for Ryan to head home.
It seemed that a similar scoreline to the one at Wanstead Flats earlier in the season could be achievable.
Pinner had other ideas and within three minutes were level. As the Knights make shift defence stood still appealing for offside Pinner top-scorer Hadley Winthorp broke free to slot home. It was a tactic that Pinner were exploiting well in the first half and may have taken the lead soon after wards when Winthorp went through again - a mix up between Clements and Labi ensued and Winthrop fired over when perhaps it was easier to score. Skipper J. Bell stepped in to sort out the flaring tempers of both Labi and Clements as the pressure of a poor performance began to mount.
The longer the match went on the more Knights started to dictate their authority on it. Midway through the first half they were awarded a corner, which Konzon whipped in. It fell to stand-in centre back J. Bell who struck a 20 yard shot into the top corner - aided by Pinner ‘Keeper Marc Berman.
The half time whistle went with Pinner on the attack as they have been for much of the first half. But it was the Knights who went in with the ascendancy, some would say undeservedly so.
As poor as the Knights were in the first half they were dominant in the second. Last week's hero Simon Marks, Ryan and Konzon became more involved and with the slope in their favour they started to impose their attacking threat on the game. That was evident when Simon Marks fed a deliciously chipped through ball to Konzon who slotted past Berman only to find his goal bound effort cleared off the line. It was a sign that Knights superior play and fitness was coming into effect and the boys from North London were beginning to struggle.
With the introduction of Winehouse for Chris Bell - who was starting his first game for the Knights and had a solid game - East London started to attack from all areas of the pitch.
Winehouse's first meaning full involvement was to go on a 20 yard run. It was what the Knights had been missing in the first half - a positive and direct approach. Knights had chances to extend the lead with Simon Marks hitting the bar from another Konzon set piece.
Ryan and Konzon were linking up well down the right again, as they have done for most of the season and opportunities were a plenty.
Despite the fact East London were dominating the play they were only one goal up and Pinner could and should have equalised with 15 minutes remaining. A long throw was delivered and it fell invitingly to Josh Landy who fired over from 15 yards under pressure from Clements and Winehouse. It was a reminder to Knights that game was not over and a third goal was needed to settle any nerves. It arrived - as most do - by red-hot Ryan. This was his 10th league goal so far this season which extends his lead at the top of the scoring charts. The goal arrived from the penalty spot after a much improved Konzon was hacked in the box. The referee had no choice but to award the spot kick. Following last week's dramatics Ryan was well practiced from 12 yards and cooly slotted home to the keepers' bottom right; who remained rooted to the spot.
The final whistle sounded and it was another well earned three points for the Knights. Yet again their first half performance left a lot to be desired but they showed great character to claim another victory and extend their lead at the top of the table. Given the circumstances the Knights can go away from the Roger Bannister Playing Fields happy.
Next week they will hope to welcome back the inspirational Pollack and defensive rocks Franklin and Sidloff as well as Forest.