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Lions Vets recover to reach last four of cup

A superb second-half performance saw Maccabi London Lions produce a thrilling comeback to see off Mid-Herts table-toppers Willows in this Herts County Cup quarter-final that was a great advert for Vets football.

    HERTS COUNTY CUP QUARTER-FINAL

    LONDON LIONS 6 WILLOWS OLD BOYS 4

    Willows came to Rowley Lane boasting an unbeaten record and immediately showed why, hassling and hurrying Lions into errors. The low sun in their eyes didn’t help the hosts, too often passes forward failed to find their targets.

    Lions were however resolute at the back, Guy Morris and Rob Glass rocks at the heart of the backline ably supported by Tony Gold and the outstanding Jonny Rayner.  With Craig Pearl and Alex Levack offering a further screen they gave Willows little to feed off, but one fine move saw a fierce drive acrobatically turned over by Brad Lee in the Lions goal.

    Lions had chances of their own, they too forcing saves from the visiting keeper, the best of which saw him get down sharply to turn Lee Cash's effort onto the post before reacting quickest to smother the rebound. Cash also flicked Hadley Silver's corner on to bar, while Silver himself failed to make the most of a break when Glass’s long ball sent him clear.

    Willows’ front two remained a handful, but it was a little against the run of play when they took the lead. Morris seemed to be blocked off the ball in the build up which allowed a clear sight of Lee’s goal. Although the Lions stopper was able to parry the initial shot the rebound was tucked home.

    The response from Lions was almost immediate. From a Willows corner Rayner cleared to Cash on halfway. A lovely trick saw him burst away, before he freed Paul Lenchner in the right channel who beat his man before delivering a pinpoint cross onto the forehead of Cash who had continued his run, the ball planted into the bottom corner with great aplomb.

    However, a gift from Lee on the stroke of half time allowed Willows to regain the lead, carelessly he passed the ball straight to the visitor’s No. 9 who gleefully rolled the ball across to his partner to tap in at the far post. And Lee’s and Lions’ day didn’t get any better when, five minutes into the second half he failed to come for a routine cross allowing a free header from barely six yards that the striker simply couldn’t miss.

    3-1 down against a previously unbeaten side left Lions a mountain to climb, but their response was outstanding and immediate. The midfield three of Craig Pearl, Alex Levack and Daniel Stanton got hold of the game and dominated. Pearl fed Stanton just inside the box, but he was crudely upended and a penalty was rightly awarded. Up stepped Brad Lazarus to coolly slot home and reduce the arrears.

    And within three minutes they were level, Cash this time afforded space 20 yards from goal needed no second invitation to unleash a wicked shot that found the bottom corner.

    Lions were buzzing and playing some outstanding football that culminated in a quite brilliant goal that gave them the lead for the first time. For the umpteenth time Rayner drove forward, exchanging passes with Pearl before flicking the ball into the path of the supporting Lazarus.  His first time cross curled over the head of the first defender to where Lenchner has stolen a march on his man, throwing himself at the ball to execute a superb volley that flew past the helpless keeper.

    Willows simply had no answer – Morris and Glass remained dominant with substitute Pete Lazard now on to give further defensive support and ensure no way back in for Willows.  But in truth from this base it was really all Lions.

    More fine interplay saw Lazarus found with time and space in the box; there was never going to be any other result than a fifth for Lions.

    The icing then put on the cake when Silver’s corner was met by a bullet header from Glass to make it 6-3 and ensure the result.

    Stanton hit the post and Pearl was denied by an outstanding double save, but having been so good defensively the concession of a fourth seemed unjust, Lee’s day to forget compounded when he slipped attempting to trick his way past the Willows forward, presenting him with an open goal to tap into.

    But all this did was close up the scoreline, the final whistle blowing shortly after.

    LIONS: Brad Lee, Jonny Rayner, Tony Gold, Guy Morris, Rob Glass, Alex Levack, Craig Pearl, Daniel Stanton, Paul Lenchner, Hadley Silver, Lee Cash. Subs: Brad Lazarus, Max Radford, Pete Lazard

    GOALS: Cash 2, Lazarus 2, Glass, Lenchner

    Man-of-the-match: Paul Lenchner

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