Rep team lose opener

By Danny Caro, February 25, 2009
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The JC Maccabi League team were well beaten by a superior Turkish Federation side in their London Inter-League Cup opener at Potters Bar Town FC on Tuesday half.

The visitors, who featured seven players from Ryman League sides Ware and Witham Forest were simply too good, too sharp and too clever for Maccabi.

Going into the game, Maccabi League rep team boss Jonathan Kestenbaum was forced to alter his squad with striker Lee Cash starting a six-week ban, Daniel Cole, Ricky Kennet and Aron Barnes pulling out injuries from the weekend.

The hosts had beaten the Turks 2-1 in the corresponding fixture last season but they were swept away by a young, tenacious and gifted team this time around.

Turkey dominated the first half with an 8th minute header whistling inches wide of Danny Berliner’s far post.

The majority of the first half was played in the Maccabi half as the hosts defended for their lives against technically superior opponents.

And it came as no surprise when the Turks forged ahead midway through the half with Dennis Mehmet given too much time before sliding his shot through Berliner’s legs to give the visitors a richly deserved lead.

As the half time whistle blew, many inside the ground felt that Maccabi were lucky to only be one down and hoped that Kestenbaum’s words of wisdom would work some magic.

Maccabi got off to the worst possible start as the Turks doubled their lead 45 seconds after the restart when hesitant defending allowed Antonia to ghost in and slip the ball through Berliner’s legs.

The hosts were being punished for every mistake and for not getting tight enough against gifted and hungry opposition.

It was all Turkey, and things could have got worse had it not been for a smart low save from Berliner as he showed great alertness to turn a shot around his near post.

Maccabi introduced a second striker with 25 minutes left as Lions hotshot Michael Pearson, who had scored a hat-trick 24 hours earlier in a double-header against Faithfold, was thrown on in place of Neasden defender Jonny Ellis.

The impetus changed hands almost immediately as Maccabi finished the game the stronger with Pearson’s 20-yard snapshot comfortably held by the Turkish keeper.

Josh Bentley then joined the fray, replacing Hendon teammates Greg Corin.

Having had Maccabi’s best chance of the first half with a free-header he deflected away from goal, Adam Stolerman then tested the Turkish keeper with two dipping volleys but they were both held by the Heurelho Gomes look-a-like. A third effort flashed the wrong side of the post as Maccabi found some momentum.

The hosts’ new 4-4-2 formation asked questions of the Turkish defence but try as they might, Maccabi were unable to find a way back into the game.

Kestenbaum told JC Sport: "I thought that this Turkish team were by far superior to anything we’ve played over the last two years, yet the two goals we feel we could’ve dealt with better. As the game wore on we started to look really strong, and even though we were up against top-class players, it was really about the two errors. Even when in danger of being overrun, we didn’t concede goals.

"We knew we’d go 4-4-2 in the second half but their goal early in the second half put us on the back-foot.

"A number of the boys were playing in the competition for the first time. I hope to have some of the injured players back as there is still a lot to play for. This was a step up in football for a lot of the boys and I believe that they have learnt a lot tonight. This is Ryman League football. I feel that none of them looked out of place but the difference was a question of pace and composure. I though the Turks were in a different class but we still have six points to play for and our aim is to get them all.

"Our boys don’t feel down and out but we feel we have a lot to learn about playing at this level. Our next two games are away and I’d like to thank all the players who came in and did well."

Assistant-manager Danny Berg said: "We were beaten by a good side but if you give them time on the ball you will get punished. We put them under pressure in the last 30 minutes and created chances."

JC MSFL Rep Team: Danny Berliner 8, Sam McCarthy 6, Jonny Ellis 7 (sub: Mike Pearson 65, 7), Adam Myeroff 7, Jake Gottlieb 7, Alex Levack (capt) 7, Greg Corin 6 (sub: Josh Bentley 72, 7), Ben Lauffer 7, Daniel Stanton 6, Daniel Levenfiche 7 (sub: Paul Bentley 80, 6), Adam Stolerman 7. Sub not used: Jay Jaffa

    Last updated: 10:50am, February 25 2009