Raiders got what we deserved, says Richman

Rob Richman described NLR’s 3-2 victory over defending champions Hendon United as their “performance of the season” as L’Orange moved to within a point of their first-ever MGBSFL Premier Division title following a thrilling 3-2 victory at Hatfield University.



Rob Richman described NLR’s 3-2 victory over defending champions Hendon United as their “performance of the season” as L’Orange moved to within a point of their first-ever MGBSFL Premier Division title with a 3-2 victory in a real thriller at Hatfield University.

Hendon went into the game with a three-point advantage as they looked to extend their impressive record against their nearest challengers who have two games in hand.


The hosts were missing experienced duo Alex Rosenthal Avidan Last, along with Yoav and Avishai Kestenbaum, and Tali Nevies for a match played in testing conditions, with a strong swirling wind and heavy rain.

Chances were few and far between in the first 10 minutes before Hendon had strong appeals for a penalty turned down as Dovi Fehler was sent sprawling by Alex Bloch, but neither referee Neil Cooper or assistant-referee Stephen Levy felt that there was contact, despite protests from the Hendon players and supporters.

Raiders responded well and, from their next attack, great work from the lively Liron Mannie saw the former Wingate & Finchley starlet feed the ball into the dangerous Jordan Marks who was denied by a brilliant last-ditch tackle.

With Matt Stock, Mannie and Marks in threatening mood, it came as no surprise when Raiders forged ahead with a goal of great quality. Stock showed great feet and trickery on the left-hand side of the Hendon box before pulling the ball back to MARKS who lashed the ball past Russell Corin.

It was almost 2-0 a minute later as Mannie saw his shot beat Corin, but not the post.

NLR enjoyed a strong period of pressure, boxing Hendon into their half, and it needed a serious of heroic blocks and stoic defending to keep the Orange tidal wave out. Last season’s champions were penned back, but led by the outstanding Ari Nevies, they put life and limb on the line to keep Raiders out, showing great commitment and bravery.

Hendon were relieved to hear Cooper blow for half-time, knowing that NLR could and should really have been further ahead.

There was a dramatic start to the second half as David Garbacz’s interval teamtalk clearly had the desired affect, as Hendon flew out of the blocks, with three goals flying in in a matter of minutes.

Fehler drew Hendon level with a low drive across Jake Doffman that the young keeper will really feel he should have done better with, and the former Boca Jewniors celebrated his important strike with a series of high quality flips and somersaults.

Hendon drove forward straight from the restart and they forged ahead moments later when the marauding Ben Kon firing past Doffman.

Raiders teams of the past may have buckled, but Richman's troops showed great resilience to score with their next attack, with Stock applying the finishing touch to leave Hendon stunned.

The rainsoaked crowd, which included league chairman David Wolff, were being treated to a wonderful spectacle between the best two teams in the league and it was Raiders who managed to find another gear in the final half hour as they pushed for a deserved winner, displaying a new-found maturity.

Mannie put in a tremendous shift on the wing and his fabulous run and cross into the danger zone saw the usually unflappable Ben Kon divert the ball into his own net.

Hendon tried to push Raiders back but they came up against a brick wall of resistance, led notably by NLR captain David Rhodes, with midfield anchor man Jonny Kay and right-back Josh Pistol also catching the eye.

At times, Hendon, who threw on club captain Ari Last in the final 20 minutes, lacked direction going forward and authority as Raiders won their individual and collective battles.

Hendon’s biggest threats – Greg Corin, David Seitler and Ben Lauffer – were well marshalled throughout and hopes of a late onslaught never materialised, with Doffman’s goal well guarded.

Raiders continued to go forward, largely on the break, with Marks, Mannie and Stock showing tremendous endeavour and energy. They came close to registering a fourth on several occasions, and Hendon could really have had no complaints had the visitors won by a wider margin.

As the final whistle sounded, NLR celebrated ending their Hendon hoodoo, showing a dramatic mark of mental and physical improvement from recent meetings. The conditions were made for Hendon, but it was NLR’s day.

They now require just one point from their final two matches – against North West Neasden and FC Team A – with the league management committee set to award them three points following a scheduled meeting that Woodford Wanderers forfeited.

NLR manager Rob Richman told JC Sport: "We are obviously delighted with our performance and the result.

"We have produced some very good stand out performances this season, Oakwood at home, Harmen away and Redbridge in the cup spring to mind but this was probably our best.

"Apart from a mad minute in the game, we were exceptional. We didn't let Hendon settle, so often a great feature of their play, and we attacked with pace and guile throughout.

"We made it difficult for ourselves by gifting Hendon two goals but we had the character to not let it unduly affect us and run out worthy winners.

"We played with a lack of fear today, the pressure was all on Hendon and we talked a lot before the game about going out and enjoying ourselves and proving what a good side we are. I think today we showed that. Our front three of Stock, Mannie and Marks were at times unplayable and Rhodes at centre back was everything you'd want in a defensive leader.

"It would be remiss of me not to mention Hendon. Treble winners for two of the last three seasons, an exceptionally talented group who I fully hope and expect go all the way in the Morrison. They played their part in an enthralling game. They lost a lot of important players in the summer yet seem to be stronger than last year. It was a great battle with them last season and it's been even more so this season.

"They will be looking for revenge in the cup final but we will be ready for everything they have up their sleeves, mind games and all!

"We await the league's final confirmation regarding the game in which Woodford pulled out but assuming we get the three points from that it means we need just one point to secure the title. That is testament to all the hard work and commitment from all the boys all season.
"We have a few weeks grace now but we will be fully focused on making sure we secure at least the point we need at the earliest opportunity."

Hendon boss David Garbacz told JC Sport: "First and foremost, we want to collectively congratulate Raiders on what is now the formality of them winning the league.

"We gave it our best shot today but we have to concede the better team won on the day - they were too quick for us and just that little bit stronger and for us we needed everyone to perform at the top of their abilities and that just didn't happen.

"It was a great game in extremely difficult conditions - a great advert for our league and we are totally gutted to have lost out.

"We started much the better team for the first 20 minutes but after an absolute stonewall penalty was turned down we possibly began to fear the worst.

"I got into trouble a couple of weeks ago when moaning about a big decision, but for this one I simply do not understand how the linesman could have bottled it/he was 10 yards away and it was so weak on his part.

"Overall I thought the ref was excellent and if his view was slightly blocked the linesman's certainly wasn't. It was one of two massive turning points in the game. The other one was allowing them to equalise to quickly after we turned things round brilliantly at the beginning of the second half.

"If we could have settled for just five more minutes after taking the lead we would have had them panicking big time and I'm sure we'd have gone on to win.

"We got caught up in the moment - gave the ball away cheaply in the middle and they were in.
"In truth after that they finished the stronger - we had the stuffing knocked out of us and we had to chase the game knowing only a win would do.

"They are a tremendous team though - every time we play them it is a pleasure and to be fair they really deserve a trophy after all they have put in over the past few seasons.

"We have defended our title and our treble with dignity and skill, but we dropped too many silly points and ultimately our long injury list has caught up with us.

"However, the season is far from over for us- we will brush ourselves down - eat a few Matzos and the herbs will certainly taste more bitter than usual, but then we will be ready for revenge against Raiders in the Anekstein final and we will be looking for a cup double in the Morrison as well.

"Today is Raiders day - congratulations once again to them - see you on May 3."

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