Sloma late show lifts London Lions


London Lions 2 Tokyngton Manor 1

London Lions produced a majestic performance beating arguably the most physical side in the Spartan South Midlands League by two goals to one.

Both sides had good chances during the 90 minutes but superb goalkeeping from both the visiting stopper Dean Joseph and Lions no. 1 Mario Cenolli and wasteful finishing contributed to a low scoring game.

Lions were dealt an early blow on 20 minutes when right-back Danny Berg suffered a heavy collision with Tokyngton’s no. 9 Samim Kharas and had to be replaced. Young 16-year-old Connor Perlmutter slotted in like a veteran professional looking calm and composed.

As the game etched towards the interval chances were scarce as both midfields seemed to dominate proceedings. Lions' trio of Andy Glynne, Daniel Stanton and Aron Barnes worked extremely hard with especially the latter showing his strongest asset being his dogged determination to compete for every ball.

Then bang on 45 minutes Lions fell behind and yes you have guessed it from a free-kick. Bilal Butt launched a 20 yard free kick into the Lions box, the ball was flicked on and unchallenged Hussein Kharas smashed the ball home giving Cenolli no chance.

The message in the Lions camp at half-time was clear – go out in the second-half and show some “cojones”!

And to the Lions credit that is exactly what they did. Ten minutes into the second half it looked as if it was just going to be one of those days for the Lions as they just didn’t look like they were going to find a way through the physical Tokyngton defence.

With 35 minutes remaining Lions manager Tony Gold decided to go for broke. Ben Lampert was replaced by TJ Keterman with Lions reverting to a 3-5-2 formation. Keterman joined Dean Nyman up top with the impressive Barnes and tricky Josh Kennet being deployed as wing-backs.

For the next 20 minutes Lions peppered the Tokyngton goal and were virtually camped in their visitors half, but they just could not find that all important equaliser. That was until the 78th minute when the game turned on its head.

Keterman collected the ball wide on the Lions left and delivered a teasing cross which Nyman attacked purposefully seeing Joseph in the visitors goal scramble to his right to save. Managing only to block the ball, David Soutar being in the right place at the right time bundled the ball home suddenly giving Lions real belief for the final 12 minutes.

Tokyngton then created two glorious chances to snatch victory but Cenolli in the Lions goal who was faultless all afternoon pulled off two stunning saves.

The game looked like heading for 1-1 draw when deep in injury time in the 94th minute Kennet whipped in a cracking cross. From 15 yards and rising like a salmon Sam Sloma managed to head the ball into the top corner of the goal sparking wild celebrations amongst the players and Lions bench.

As Manor kicked off from centre the referee blew his whistle to end proceedings leaving Lions to enjoy another last-gasp victory.

Looking back over his sides second consecutive late winner, Lions manager Tony Gold said: “The players are starting to show an unequivocal-never-say-die attitude to their football and I was delighted with the manner of today’s performance.

“We do make life hard for ourselves at times but today we kept believing and playing and I was absolutely ecstatic with the mentality of the players. They showed great mental toughness and character.

“It was a gamble to go three at the back, firstly with so much time remaining and secondly with 16-year-old Connor playing only his second senior game as one of the three but thankfully it was a gamble that paid off. Connor showed great maturity for a player so young playing this level of football and if he continues to develop his game it goes without saying that he has a very bright future."

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