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Wanderers strike back to end MLL's Middlesex Cup dream

There was heartbreak for Maccabi London Lions on Sunday as they succumbed to Middlesex Wanderers in a thrilling cup semi-final at Rowley Lane.

    MIDDLESEX VETS COUNTY CUP SEMI-FINAL

    MACCABI LONDON LIONS 3 MIDDLESEX WANDERERS 4

    Facing opponents who are arguably the best Vets side around, the three times reigning Ryman League champions came back strongly to squeeze into the Middx County Cup final.

    Wanderers are a famous touring club and are made up of a number of ex-professional players. In the previous round they turned up with just 12 players and roundly thumped Winchmore Hill - the reigning champions and current league leaders in MLL's division - 5-0, so the task ahead of Lions facing up to their 16 was a huge one. 

    But Lions were simply outstanding in the first half – superb handling from goalkeeper Rob Abrahams, defensively solid, combative in midfield and, up front, Paul Hakim and Saul Conway were everything you would want from your forwards. Having got themselves into the game, neat passing saw Conway freed down the right. He burst past his man before delivering a pinpoint cross that Hakim smashed into the roof of the net.

    It was a great game, with both teams playing at a frenetic pace – this was no ‘Masters’ match to the casual observer. With 35 minutes on the clock, and having weathered a storm, Lions doubled their lead, Conway again showing great strength and pace to find his way into the box where his finish was unstoppable.

    So 0-2 down at the break, the Wanderers received "one hell of a rollicking," and as expected they came out all guns blazing. With ex-Brentford star Chris Moore and former Spurs and Borehamwood player James Bunn pinning Lions back, they began to create openings, but some fine defending, albeit some under great pressure, saw the lead remain intact.

    And then Lions entered dreamland scoring a goal of the highest order. Joel Berg made a superb block and then reacted quickest to poke the ball forward to Hakim just outside our own box. He strode forward purposely before exchanging perfect passes with Brad Lazarus, getting to the edge of the box and delivering a peach of a ball that Conway, who had sprinted the length of the pitch, latched onto on the half volley at the far post to put the Lions 3-0 up.

    Wanderers, though, are an experienced team, and kept going, winning themselves a corner that was flicked home at the near post. This gave them renewed belief, and within 10 minutes they had completely flipped the game on its head, with Moore helping himself to all four goals – his header followed by a penalty, a stunning curler and then a tap-in after Abrahams couldn’t hold the original shot.

    Lions were rattled but credit the playersfor regaining some composure and sticking in the tie.  With 10 to go they gambled and it almost paid off with Pearl, Hakim and Conway going close before, in the dying seconds, Lenchner’s back post lunge saw him an inch from diverting Conway’s cross. But sadly it wasn’t to be.

    And so Lions’ sortie in the Middlesex Cup ends for another season, but the side exit with heads held high having given a seriously good side a real run for their money. And a word too for Adam Myeroff, John Rayner, Paul Lenchner and Craig Pearl for putting themselves forward to play despite having played 90/120 minutes the previous afternoon.

    LIONS: Rob Abrahams, John Rayner, Adam Harvey, Adam Myeroff, Joel Berg Guy Morris, Alex Levack, Rob Glass, Brad Lazarus, Paul Hakim, Saul Conway. Subs: Craig Pearl, Paul Lenchner

    SCORERS: Hakim, Conway 2

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