Ten-man Lions make their point

Tony Gold insists the future looks bright after a youthful Lions team came away from Langford with a hard-earned point.



Tony Gold insists the future looks bright after a youthful Lions team came away from Langford with a hard-earned point.

London Lions, or should that be cubs, came away from Langford with a spirited point following a second successive 2-2 draw.

Lions had no fewer than five players in their starting XI under the age of 18, with 16-year-old Nick Barnett the youngest, making an excellent first team debut.

Given this was arguably the least experienced side Lions have ever had representing the club at Spartan South Midlands level, it made the point earned even more impressive.

With the sun shining and the Langford pitch big and wide, Lions arrived in good spirits on the back of a good point in midweek at home to Stony Stratford Town. With an ever-growing injury list and the custom player unavailability which has hampered Lions season, the management were forced into making no fewer than five changes to the team that secured a point at home the previous Wednesday.

Max Kyte, Rafa Soccairello, Michael Sacks, Adam Lipman and 16-year-old Nick Barnett all came in, with the latter making his full senior first team debut.

Langford, sitting eighth in the league, had beaten Lions 3-1 back in December and were hoping to make it a swift double. The game started lively and ebbed and flowed for the first 10 minutes, before Adam Lipman lit the touch-paper with a robust but fair challenge, which the referee took umbrage to and cautioned the player with a yellow card. That tackle evidently eradicated any fear or apprehension the other young players may have felt and as the dust settled Lions gathered composure and started to dominate possession and create the better chances.

Just on the half-hour mark Lions were hit with a sucker punch as the home side took the lead against the run of play. A lack of communication and organisation in the Lions rearguard, allowed Langford the one rare opportunity they had of the half, to find the time and space to rifle the ball home from just inside the visitors 18-yard box.

The disappointment of conceding that cheap goal could have had an adverse effect on the team, but it actually had the opposite result and Lions were more determined than ever to find an equaliser.

The visitors were having a lot of joy from wide areas with the energy and direct running of Sam Shooter and Nick Barnett. On 38 minutes Lions were level. Max Kyte pounced on a super through ball from skipper Andy Glynne, driving past his marker before drilling a good finish past the exposed Langford keeper.

With confidence high and the bit between their teeth, Lions surged in front just before the break. An almost carbon copy of events occurred, as Kyte once again broke free down the Lions right before cutting across the goal and placing his shot home.

The second half didn't quite live up to the intensity and quality of the first, with Lions tiring as the game etched towards the finish line. On 60 minutes Adam Lipman was shown a second yellow card for another rash challenge, leaving the referee no option but to give the young midfielder his marching orders. It was a real pity as Lipman was having a good game, but it meant Lions offensive tenacity had to be reined in to avoid getting over run in the middle of the park.

It wasn't long before Langford benefited from the numerical advantage but their equaliser was gifted to them by Lions. A long hopeful punt from the home keeper travelled all of 60 yards and a second of hesitancy in the Lions defence allowed the Langford forward to take full advantage as he pounced on the loose ball and slotted home in the empty goal.

Lions managed to batten down the hatches in the final 20 minutes, with Mario Cenolli pulling off two fantastic saves and secure another valuable point away from home.

Lions boss Tony Gold said: "We were delighted with the never-say-die spirit of such a young side today and I believe it bodes well for the remaining 15 games.

"It was a difficult game for us but every game usually is, given the amount of changes we are forced to make from game to game.

"This is a transition for the club and it may take another two years, but anyone present at the game today, who saw the five young lads all of whom are under 18 representing the club would have seen the future is bright.

"What we must do now is keep moving forward and prepare for what is in front of us. We always want to win games, but in order to do that more consistently we have to eradicate the mistakes.

"We scored two really good goals and had chances to score more, Langford have scored two goals from our mistakes and that's what needs to change, but one point is always better than losing the game, especially when the lads have had to roll up their sleeves for the final 30 minutes with 10 men.

"We keep reminding the players that is always comes down to the small details - concentration, mentality, believing in yourself and each other, solidarity and consistency. We will make less mistakes and pick up more points once we get that all-important consistency."

LIONS: Mario Cenolli, Nick Barnett, David Souter, Michael Sacks, Cameron Most, Andy Glynne, Rafi Soccairello, Adam Lipman, Zac Rose, Sam Shooter, Max Kyte

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