Lions win AFA Trophy

London Lions Masters clinched the AFA Veterans Trophy after overcoming a resolute Old Aloysians side 3-0 at Norseman FC.



London Lions Masters clinched the AFA Veterans Trophy after overcoming a resolute Old Aloysians side 3-0 at Norseman FC.

Having progressed through half a dozen previous rounds, Lions' small squad was stretched to the limit, with regulars Danny Reuben, Gideon Barnett, Max Radford and the Lazarus brothers all ruled out through injury. This meant a start for Daryl Phillips up top, with the bench made up of Lions stalwarts Darren Dryer, Andy Miller and Danny Schindler.


Andy Myers and top-scorer Paul Lenchner were passed fit, and they took their places amongst the starters. The rains of the week left the pitch pretty heavy in places, but the hard work of the groundstaff at least presented both teams with a surface to get the game on.

Lions started ever so brightly. Pete Lazard took up place alongside Myers at the heart of the defence, in turn allowing the athletic and powerful Tony Gold and Jon Rayner to take on attacking roles from full-back which they both relished; both had fine games.

From their first break Lions could, or rather should, have scored. Paul Linger sent Rayner away down the right, and his cross on the run was glanced on by Lenchner to Phillips. Although his contact wasn't the cleanest at the far post it beat the keeper, only to be hacked off the line. The clearance though only found Gold out on the left who delivered a peach of a ball that Lenchner rose high to meet, his bullet header back across goal a matter of inches wide.

OA's were a powerful team, and with the sticky pitch in the centre, Lions' engine room of Craig Henry, Linger and Dan Piler were stretched at times. The latter though had an outstanding first half, seemingly always on hand to provide the cover or tackle to ensure that, for all their possession, Brad Lee had a relatively untroubled opening half hour.

But Lions were certainly stretched, and while not conceding too much by way of clear chances they didn't look like scoring themselves. A small shift saw them bring Richard Baum out wide, knowing if they could get him playing in the space they'd have a better chance. And it almost paid dividends immediately when he linked well first with Gold and then with Philips to provide opportunities for Lenchner, who shot wide and then for Linger, whose fine strike brought a stunning save from the excellent OA's keeper.

Schindler replaced Henry to give Lions a little more defensive solidity and to allow the full-backs even more licence to push on. Baum was again central to proceedings, this time his run was crudely ended five yards outside the box. Linger's trusty right boot had the ball dipping under the bar, again though he was denied by perhaps an even better save.

With the half almost at a close, Piler drew yet another foul as he tried to work a short corner. Linger whipped it in where Phillips seemed to be hauled down by the centre half. But the ball continued and found its way to the far post where Myers and his covering defender slid in, the ball to Lions' delight bobbling into the bottom corner to give Lions the lead. The game barely had time to restart before the half came to a close.

As expected, OA's mounted a strong response early in the half, but Lions continued to defend superbly. And from this platform they played their football, looking a threat each time they came forward. For this bright start they were rewarded, and in some style. Another foul presented Linger with the chance to deliver from 30 yards. But he had other ideas, drilling a cracking strike that curled away from the keeper's flailing dive, finding the net via the inside of the post. The present Budweiser cameras, on site as part of an initiative looking to capture the best amateur goals, couldn't have helped but be impressed.

Lions pressed again, and, on 65 minutes all but put the game to bed. Phillips did brilliantly to hold off his man and feed Lenchner with his back to goal on the penalty spot. He controlled, created himself a yard before spinning and instantly striking across the keeper and into the net. His delight at getting on the scoresheet clear for all to see.

OA's now threw caution to the wind and, to their credit, asked numerous questions of the Lions rearguard. A goal at this stage could have opened things up, but more stout defending and some wasteful finishing meant they didn't trouble the scorers.

However, Lions still had to be grateful to their crossbar once and to their keeper Lee for a brilliant double save and another terrific block to keep their clean sheet intact.

Dryer and Miller were introduced for the closing quarter of the game, the former's fine cross was met by Lenchner but his header was straight at the keeper before in the closing stages Gold played Phillips in only for a combination of the mud and the on-rushing keeper seeing him unable to take a most presentable chance.

The final whistle soon sounded. They'd been made to work hard, but the opposition were gracious in defeat and acknowledged that, on the day, the victory was deserved as Rayner went up to lift the trophy ...

LIONS: Brad Lee, Tony Gold, Jon Rayner (capt), Andy Myers, Pete Lazard, Paul Linger, Craig Henry, Richard Baum, Daryl Phillips, Paul Lenchner. Subs: Andy Miller, Danny Schindler, Darren Dryer

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