MOLTEN SPARTAN SOUTH MIDLANDS LEAGUE DIVISION ONE
London Lions 0 Harpenden Town 0
London Lions produced another battling performance to gain an excellent point against Harpenden Town in a 0-0 draw at Broxbourne Borough FC.
This was not your bog standard boring 0-0 draw. This was a game full of incident, great saves, heroic defending and, at times, sublime football.
With Lions sitting fifth in the table and the visitors fourth, this was always likely to be a close affair.
Harpenden arrived at Broxbourne on the back of a superb 1-0 win over league leaders London Colney and a league statistic of losing only four games all season.
Lions made several changes to the side that limped to victory over Amersham Town last weekend. Mario Cenolli returned in goal, replacing the injured Declan Green, Josh Kennet started in place of the injured Craig Ellis and Paul Hakim started up front, leading a very attacking line-up with the idea of giving Lions a little more strength and much-needed quality which has been evidently lacking in recent games.
The game started at a frenetic pace which was mainly instigated by Harpenden. In Jimmy Hill (not the former Fulham chairman) and Mark Hitchcock they have two of the hardest working front men in the league. The Lions defence needed to be at their brilliant best to avoid any major problems and they didn't disappoint.
Adam Myeroff put in a joint man-of-the-match performance at centre-half with Mario Cenolli in the Lions goal sharing the accolade.
It took Lions 20 minutes to get up to speed and once there more than matched their hard working opponents. Cenolli had made two outstanding saves to keep Lions on level terms had given the home side a platform from which to build.
For the remaining 25 minutes of the half, with Harpenden clearly feeling the effects of their efforts earlier, Lions started to make inroads in the final third.
Hakim, who was a handful all night, saw his first effort on goal fly agonisingly wide of the far post. Then without doubt move of the match perhaps the season involving a 30-yard pass from Josh Kennet to Dean Nyman. His first time cross on the volley to Hakim on the edge of the box who in turn volleyed first time with the ball sailing into the top left-hand corner of the goal only for Harpenden’s number one Matt Lord managing to pull off a brilliant one-handed save to prevent what Lions manager Tony Gold believes would have been "goal of the decade".
The effort from both teams was monumental and it was no surprise that several players were glad to hear the half-time whistle. The only booking of the half was for Hill who received a yellow card for a late challenge on Ricky Engleman.
It was hard to see Harpenden maintaining their early energy levels and as long as Lions continued to remain disciplined and focused the crowd of 32 were in for an intriguing and interesting second half.
As suspected, Harpenden had run out of steam, but still looked a threat on the counter attack, but Lions continued to chip away hoping to get that little bit of luck or something falling their way to take what now would be a deserved lead.
That moment seemed to arrive on 72 minutes when Matt Stock charged clear with the only the keeper to beat. Just as he was about to pull the trigger he was scathed down by Jamie Taylor in the penalty box. Everyone in the ground waited with baited breath expecting the referee to point to the spot and award a penalty, but unbelievably and to everyone’s shock bar Harpenden’s he gave nothing but a goal kick as the ball rolled out of play.
As the game entered its final stages, Cenolli was called into action once more and once again he produced a competent and brave save to keep Harpenden at bay.
Both sides went looking for the winner in the dying moments but the final whistle brought the curtain down on what was a highly entertaining, competitive match played between two sides who gave everything. A great advert for South Midlands football.
Lions manager Tony Gold was full of praise following his teams efforts. He said: "My players will feel that in the morning. Our energy levels and the way in which the team approached the game were top draw. The only thing missing tonight was a goal but what a great advert for football at this level.
"To keep a second consecutive clean sheet is also hugely pleasing and there were some very strong individual performances with Mario Cenolli and Adam Myeroff very impressive.
"With six games to play we are on 61 points. Last season we finished with 64 points and that was with the likes of James Gershfield, who scored 36 goals, and Guy Morris, so that speaks volumes as to the progress we have made.
"I am very proud of how this team has grown and developed in recent months. I’m especially delighted for Ben Lampert, Kyle Bentwood, Josh Kennet, Andy Glynne, Adam Myeroff and our skipper Dean Nyman who have been here virtually every week through thick and thin since the start of the season and who are now reaping the rewards following their loyalty and commitment."
Lions: Mario Cenolli, Adam Myeroff, Kyle Bentwood, Ben Lampert, Aron Barnes, Sam Sloma, Ricky Engleman, Josh Kennet, Dean Nyman, Matt Stock, Paul Hakim
Men-of-the-match: Mario Cenolli and Adam Myeroff