JC MSFL DIVISION FOUR
SPEC 0 NORTH LONDON RAIDERS C 1
A strike from Matt Bennett was all that separated two well-matched teams as new boys SPEC tasted MSFL defeat for the first time.
The afternoon kick-off between the two clubs lead to probably a few more fans than usual, and although they were not spoilt in the goals department, they definitely left having been entertained for 90-plus minutes.
Having lost keeper Alex Kanter five minutes before kick-off things did not look great for the Raiders. The team put in a monumental shift that made sure stand-in keepers Rob Richman and David Simnock did not have that much to deal with.
In a slightly cagey opening 20 minutes, neither side created much with Raiders having a penalty turned down extremely early on being the only talking of point.
It was Raiders then who did manage to breach the SPEC defence on two occasions forcing SPEC new signing Nick Green into two good saves. The half finished goalless and it was looking like one goal would decide the game.
That goal came early in the second half courtesy of a Bennett header after a good cross from Darren Russell.
SPEC failed to entirely clear a Raiders corner and with three Raiders players lining up completely unmarked in the area after the ball found its way out to Russell there was only going to be one outcome.
The goal came at a particularly disappointing time for SPEC as they had started the second half well creating two great chances which they failed to convert.
The ‘home’ team then piled on the pressure but Raiders defended extremely well with both centre backs Josh Graham and James Franks making telling contributions.
SPEC had a good penalty claim turned down when the impressive Robert Murray was felled in the box making it one each in terms of penalty appeals waved away.
The Raiders goalkeeper was hardly called into action which will be will anger SPEC possibly more than anything but that may be more down to the Raiders defence rather than anything the men in white did wrong.
David Simnock did make a good save in the Raiders goal after a great run and shot from James Lesner but with time running away from the bananas, the oranges could taste a victory.
After Raiders cleared away the last attack SPEC could muster, the final whistle was met with huge cheers from the Raiders players and fans. Both teams played their part in a well competed game with tackles flying in right, left and centre but all within the letter of the law(ish). It was a great advertisement for the game, one that league chairman David Wolff very much enjoyed watching from the sidelines. Rumour has it that he’ll pencil in the return fixture into his diary to make sure he doesn’t miss what I’m sure will be another cracker.
Raiders boss Oli Shorts told JC Sport: "Credit to the players they gave everything. SPEC will do well this season and I expect them to be challenging for the title.
"Our defence was superb and stand in CB James Franks was excellent along side Josh 'skipper' Graham.
"We wish Alex Kanter well and he will be out for two months."
After the game Ricky Lawrence found it tough to hide his disappointment. "We are all absolutely gutted to have lost the game today. It’s the first time in seven games (including pre-season) that we have gone behind and I’m very proud of the way we responded, unfortunately we just couldn’t find the equaliser we so desperately wanted.
"It was a great game and we’ll be back. We’re not a fan of the favourites tag to be honest especially when you look at our squad today, with only three of our starters having played a full season last year.
"We’re a group of mates having a great time playing football together and if we can challenge at the top come the end of the season we’d be delighted.
"Both teams had a few players missing today and we’ve obviously lost out goalkeeper Michael Rhodes for quite possibly the season which is a massive blow.
"We’re looking forward to our cup game next Sunday against Los Blancos and then we go to Brady who have started the season very well. We hope to get back to winning ways."