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Raiders save their best till last

A stunning second-half performance from North London Raiders B saw them secure second place in Division One after over-powering Redbridge B at Fairlop.

    This week the weather was kind enough to let this fixture go ahead. The grass pitch at Fairlop was heavy and unpredictably bobbly but more than suitable for the game.

    Raiders settled into the first half well, keeping possession and trying to get it wide when possible. The opening goal was somewhat fortuitous but came from getting the ball out to wingback, Matt Leader, and his deep cross looped straight into the net - not the first time Leader's done that this season.

    The goal seemed to spur Redbridge into life and they began to get players further forward, pressurising mistakes from the Raiders defenders. The equaliser was more than deserved but messy from Raiders' point of view. Having given the ball away and failing to deal with a second ball, a hopeful pass over the top set Redbridge top-scorer Dan Gordon through on goal and he lobbed the ball over Ben Law. It was deja vu for Raiders who've conceded that goal on far too many occasions over the season.

    With 15 minutes still to play in the first half it was Redbridge who went into half-time with the momentum as Raiders began to make errors and had to fight to get to break level.

    There were stern words said during the break in the Raiders camp and a change of system for the start of the second half seemed to do the trick. Raiders had a sense of purpose about their start to the half and after five minutes were rewarded with one of their goals of the season. Starting with Ben Law in goal, every outfield player touched the ball before Simon Buchler eventually found the net - Matt Leader performed a Cruyff-turn on the left touchline, played the ball forward to Josh Bharier who cut inside and laid a pass off for Buchler who arrowed a low drive into the corner of the net from 25 yards.

    The goal seemed to have opposing effects on both teams. Raiders only got stronger whilst Redbridge began to wilt and combust. On the hour Leader had his second of the game, heading in from close range after Redbridge failed to clear. Leader could have had his hat-trick later on in the game but his effort from wide in the area was tipped behind for a corner.

    Jordan Nathan grabbed the fourth, not that he knew too much about it - a clearance hitting him and rebounding into the goal whilst Anthony Goodmaker popped up at the near post to head in a Leader corner for the fifth.

    Jake Gilbert got his customary goal, finishing emphatically at the far post on the volley from another Leader corner. There was even a chance for Raiders A-team manager, Dan Shafron, who'd come on as a sub, to score late on but his effort from close range was blocked on the line.

    There were numerous other chances for Raiders players but the game finished 6-1, securing second place for Raiders as other results went their way.

    NLR joint-manager Doron Salmon told JC Sport:"We were aware of Redbridge's excellent defensive record before the game so to score 6 goals knowing it could have been more is very satisfying.

    "The second half was one of our best of the season and it was nice at full time for everyone to relax and enjoy the win after a positive season. If that was the last game before retirement for some of our players, notably captain, Anthony Goodmaker, then it was the perfect way to go out.

    "Jonny and I can reflect on a successful campaign in which we've a very good chance of ending up with the best attacking and defensive records in the league.

    "In 2018 in particular we've been relentless and played some genuinely outstanding football. But for our game at home to Faithfold, we may well have ended up top!"

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