Raiders make their own luck
JC MSFL Div 2:
NL Raiders B 3 Southgate Harmen B 2
North London Raiders B talisman Nicky Woolf grabbed a late, late winner against Southgate Harmen B in a pulsating game at Hillingdon.
The Raiders twice came from a goal behind after the influential Simon Gold had put the Harmen second sting ahead on two occasions. Nicky Woolf and David Rhodes had restored parity and with the game heading for a draw Woolf stepped up to give Raiders the three points.
In a weekend with no Raiders A or Harmen A fixtures, both sides decided to bring in two A team players to bolster the ranks. In came Lloyd Becker for Harmen with A team captain Jonathan Hirshler having to make do with a place on the bench.
Raiders, without the influential Steve Silver, called up Mark Leader and David Rhodes and gave stalwart Ashley Davidson his first ever appearance for the Raiders B side.
Harmen were quickly into their groove and passed the ball around neatly and tidily with Becker, Simon Gold and Simon White all posing threats in the early stages.
Raiders were taking their time to settle and their cause was not helped after 20 minutes when Australian Daniel Miller pulled up with an ankle ligament strain.
However despite the poor start, it was Raiders striker Ashley Davidson who came closest to opening the scoring when his shot from 10 yards out had to be pushed around the post by Mark Engel.
After half an hour the deadlock was broken, David Rhodes was adjudged to have felled Simon Gold just outside the box and the diminutive Harmen striker brushed himself down and stepped up to curl the free kick into the top left hand corner. Gold's sixth of the campaign gave Harmen the lead their play deserved.
Raiders started to get to grips with the game as the second half wore on and unsurprisingly it was Woolf who pulled L'orange level. A corner was headed clear by Harmen but Sherman, who was having another imperious display at the back, collected the loose ball before slotting in Woolf down the left channel. Woolf cut in and calmly slotted past the keeper for his tenth of the season.
Raiders began the second half as they began the first and were beginning to rely on keeper Simnock to bail them out of trouble time and time again. First Simnock tipped a Gold effort on to the post and then pulled off an even better save to thwart Gold as he tried to dribble past the MSFL 07/08 keeper of the year. Gold though was not to be outdone and after evading a few challenges he stroked home in off the far post as Harmen regained the lead.
The goal though sparked Raiders into action and two minutes later they were level. This time Davidson did brilliantly to get to the by-line and deliver for the on-rushing Rhodes who swivelled on the ball before smashing the ball past Engel in the Harmen goal.
Twenty minutes to go and the match was intriguingly poised and chances were coming at regular intervals at both ends. First Harmen's Becker struck the post from an angled drive and the rebound fell kindly into Simnock's hands. Then at the other end, Woolf shot straight at Engel when he may have been better placed to cut the ball across the goal to any number of unmarked Raiders players.
Both teams were pressing for the win, but it with less than a minute remaining it was Raiders who had the last cheer. Woolf pounced on a through ball and he converted past Engel to give Raiders an important but most fortunate win.
After the game Raiders manager Rob Richman said: "We were very lucky to get the three points today and full credit to Harmen they were very impressive, in particular Simon Gold up front.
"From our point of view we know we can play better and we are indebted to Rik Sherman and David Simnock who both put in colossal performances. I'm delighted that despite our showing we managed to get all three points and I already can't wait for the second half of the season."