Ross makes Oakwood B pay the penalty

Darren Lawrence believes his team's discipline and focus helped them come through a bruising contest against Division One rivals Oakwood, with a last-minute penalty from James Ross sending them into round three of the Cyril Anekstein Cup.




A very hard battle and entertaining second-half saw 'Nese come out on top in a classic cup tie. A first half of few chances saw Oakwood take the lead as a superbly taken corner from Daniel Seligman drifted into the net.

'Nese, by Lawrence's own admission, produced "a pretty poor first-half performance," which resulted in multiple half-time substitutions "in a hope to bring the game to life".

Roughly 10 minutes into the second half, Brandon Sassoon lifted the ball over the top to Billy Lee, who only needed two touches, one to control and one to expertly lift the ball over the keeper and get our equaliser.

Oakwood regained the lead midway through the half from a corner, this time from the right-hand side; the ball found its way into the back of the net, this time via the boot of Daniel Selwyn.

Nese knew they were facing a cup exit and started to attack with more intent and urgency, with captain  Lee setting the standard for his team-mates with his commitment and willingness to run.

A change in formation to 4-4-2 saw 'Nese create more chances. Eventually they forced an equaliser, this time it was a Jewdinese corner that brought a goal. Scott Oldstein whipped in a delicious ball and the smallest player on the pitch, Jake Erlich, got on the end of it and placed his header past the keeper.

With the game poised to go to extra-time, 'Nese knew the win was there for the taking. In the last minute of normal time, the visitors won a throw-in right by the corner flag. With captain Adam Gold sitting out inured, substitute long-throw taker James Van Straten launched a ball into the box. An Oakwood player nervously let it bounce as he tried to let the ball run across him, only for the ball to bounce up and strike his arm. The ref blew the whistle and pointed to the spot. James Ross, who scored from the spot in the last meeting between the sides, had the chance to send Nese through. His penalties of late have been far from convincing, but he took this one as if there was no pressure at all and he rifled it into the bottom corner, sparking jubilation on the Zebra’s bench.

With a heap of injury time added on, Oakwood threw everything forward. A curling effort was fiercely struck from the corner of the box and was destined for the goal, only for the returning Ben Halmer to remarkably tip it over the bar. Everyone knew what to expect from the resulting corner. Another devastatingly delivered ball was whipped in, only for it to hit the bar and was eventually booted to safety. A rollercoaster second half was brought to an end, with the Zebras marching into the quarter-finals.

Lawrence told JC Sport: "This was another game where we perhaps did not perform to the best of our ability. However, the fight, hunger and desire we showed cannot go unnoticed. We were determined not to exit the cup prematurely as we know we have the talent to make a real push for this trophy."

He went on to praise his team for handling the physical approach of their opponents. "When the going got tough, we really knuckled down and clawed our way back into the game," remarked Lawrence." He claimed: "It was clear what Oakwood’s gameplan was - kick lumps out of us and hope that we would lose our heads. They really didn’t threaten us at all other than from corners. The amount of cynical fouls by them was really poor. But we didn’t sink to their level, we focused on our game and got the job done."

Oakwood boss Simon Field told JC Sport: "A great battling performance in a competitive cup tie. The boys put in a much-improved performance to kick off the new year, but unfortunately we didn’t get the rub of the green.

"A very soft penalty given against us in the last minute sadly knocked us out of the cup but much to build on as we take this attitude on for the rest of the year."

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