PETER MORRISON TROPHY ROUND THREE
MACCABI LONDON LIONS VETS 0 FAIRLOP FC 1
Having already sent former winners Hendon United tumbling out, it was the turn of the Lions - on their own patch, at the home of Jewish football at Rowley Lane.
Record signing Daniel Garfinkle was unable to feature for the visitors as he was cup-tied, but Aaron Dias's men did the club proud with a gutsy performance against a star-studded Lions team who went into the tie challenging for silverware on four fronts.
With stand-in goalkeeper Jordan Kara starring between the sticks, and Max Freeman in commanding form at centre half, the stage was set.
Despite missing several of the regular PMT squad and two late cry-offs, the Lions side was still packed with enough talent to win the game. The visitors, however, are a bright and energetic side with three or four quality players. And the heart and spirit shown by the rest of their group made them a dangerous opponent.
The JC cameras were there to see the drama unfold. The heavy snow made playing conditions in the first half tricky in the extreme, and although MLL's passing was far from its best the hosts still created several clear sights of goal in the opening exchanges, Lee Cash’s flicked header from Saul Conway’s ball in the closest of these, going inches wide.
At the other end mis-placed passes gave Fairlop the odd opportunity for a long-range effort, and when such carelessness ended with Russell Brill clipping the heels of top-scorer Daniel Rosen in the box. A penalty was awarded but home keeper Rob Abrahams was equal to Brad Gayer's weak effort.
Lions reacted well and continued to pour forward, and when Cash broke into the box the opening goal seemed a certainty. His fierce drive however was somehow deflected onto the underside of the bar by the keeper. Lions were convinced the ball had crossed the line, but as Conway slid in to make sure, Fairlop centre half Max Freedman executed a quite remarkable and brave block.
Before the half ended Paul Hakim struck a post, Craig Pearl headed over and Daniel Stanton saw a shot well held as Lions continued to dominate.
Fairlop were dogged, brave and resilient in defence. Not much got through them, and when it did, there was Kara to come up with all the right answers. Indeed this was the first time they have failed to score this season.
The visitors showed great character in the second half and kept the Lions at bay time and again. Decisions went against the Lions who began to sense this might not be their day. Some of Fairlop’s last-ditch defending was almost beyond belief, goal-mouth scrambles galore were each time somehow kept out.
The game then hinged on two dis-allowed Lions goals. Firstly, with the linesman’s flag staying down, Stanton broke clear, but as he rounded the keeper the whistle went, the referee deciding to over-rule Fairlop’s own assistant and give a bizarre off-side.
If that rankled Lions what happened moments later did little to ease their frustrations. From a half-cleared corner, Alex Levack delivered the ball back in where Hakim rose to plant a bullet header into the net. Having given the goal the ref was convinced by the visitors to this time consult the linesman, and this time, having deliberated for a good couple of minutes, he decided to listen and chalked off the goal.
Lions tried to keep their cool and kept playing, but time and again the Fairlop goal led a charmed life. With extra-time looming, Jaconelli hassled and harried a Lions centre-back and won possession. Dias admitted "it felt as though time had stood still" as Jaconelli coolly went around the goalkeeper to slot into an unguarded net and send Fairlop through - the celebrations were a sight to behold.
With 10 minutes to recover Lions through everything forward, but it was clear it wasn’t to be their day when Cash again unleashed a rocket that again the keeper somehow tipped onto the inside of one post by the inspired Kara, the ball flying across goal and striking the other post before being cleared. And when another scramble saw the keeper dive onto the ball the game was up.
Proud Fairlop boss Aaron Dias told JC Sport: "Well well well Danny, it's becoming a regular occurrence, you predict us to get beat and what happens? The Boaty boys turn up and win the game.
"Fair play to Lions, they have some quality players and at times had us very worried, but you know what, they gave it there best today and their best wasn't good enough against the resilient boaty boys. Lions huffed and puffed but couldn't blow that orange wall down.
"Although I would love a trip to Manchester in the next round, I'm worried someone else will knock out our local rivals before we do. So we will very much be hoping for Fairlop vs Redbridge in the quarter-final.
"Roll on the next round, where two things are most likely going to happen. A. Danny Caro predicts a Fairlop defeat and B. Danny Caro makes an incorrect match result prediction."
Lions boss Dan Jacobs told JC Sport: "We were missing a few but despite that did more than enough to win the game.
"We penned them back for the entire second half but it was just one of those days when nothing would go in. We hit the woodwork three times and had goals disallowed in controversial circumstances. But disappointed as we are though in our own failings and the decisions, loads of credit goes to Fairlop for the way they threw themselves in front of everything and for the two incredible tips their goalkeeper made, they deserved the luck they got.
"And their centre-back was the stand out player, the block he made in the first half as brave as you’ll see and probably won them the game.
"We wish them the very best of luck in the competition."
LIONS: Rob Abrahams, Russell Brill, Tony Gold, Guy Morris, Adam Harvey, Daniel Stanton, Alex Levack, Matt Kleinman, Saul Conway, Lee Cash, Paul Hakim. Sub: Craig Pearl
FAIRLOP: Jordan Kara, Pierce Prince, Daryl Rubin, Max Freedman, Ryan Cole, Adam Goldman, Daniel Bean, Matt Berkley, Bradley Gayer, James Jaconelli, Daniel Rosen. Subs: Mitch Gold, Joel Russell, David Farkash, Guy Weisselberg, Aaron Dias