MOLTEN SPARTAN SOUTH MIDLANDS LEAGUE RESERVE DIVISION ONE
COCKFOSTERS 2 LONDON LIONS RESERVES 5
Braces from Dan Green and Daran Bern inspired London Lions Reserves to an impressive victory over local rivals Cockfosters in teh MSSML Reserve Division One contest.
An outstanding team performance, where the quality of their football made a mockery of the heavy pitch, saw Lions Reserves gain not just the reward of three points but, with them, went to the top of the league for the first time.
Buoyed by three wins on the spin, and in particular last week's impressive home defeat of high-flying Hoddesdon, Lions arrived at fourth-placed Cockfosters in good spirits. The mood wasn't darkened by the no-show of right-back David Cohen, with Shai Revivo, fresh off the dentist's chair, slotting in. Other late pull-outs meant only Ben Joseph sat on the Lions bench, with Liron Mannie back from university to take up a midfield berth and Bern coming in for Matt Stock in an attacking line-up.
The heavy rain of the previous 10 days meant a slippery surface that cut up badly almost from the off. But the football played in the opening 15 minutes by Lions made light of the conditions, with some of the passing and movement on a par with the best shown all season.
Kyle Bentwood continued from where he left off last week with a commanding performance, and combing with the flair of Ben Lauffer and Mannie the trio totally bossed the midfield. Up front Green is starting to show signs of returning to the player Lions know, while on the right Bern gave the home left back a simply torrid afternoon.
Lions could and certainly should have led during this opening spell. Great interplay saw Lauffer denied the clearest of penalties when he was hauled down with the goal at his mercy, Green's shot lacked power and Bern forced an excellent save from the home keeper.
It was one way traffic - the rare Cockfosters attacks were snuffed out with ease by the back four, the full backs especially reading the game superbly. More Bern trickery teed up Nick Goodman in the six-yard box, only for him to somehow steer his shot wide as Lions began to wonder if it was going to be one of those days. Thankfully for Lions, it wasn't to be!
On the half hour Lauffer won Lions a corner. Quick thinking saw Bern free Mannie who with a jink was inside the box. His shot took a deflection, the ball cannoning off Green to give Lions a deserved lead.
Mannie then crashed one off the bar, this time Green failed to convert the rebound from just yards out. Bern's trickery was a joy, and when he decided to take on four players on his own and carve his way through the middle of the home defence it was no surprise when a delightful outside of the boot strike took the ball apace into the top corner to double their advantage.
The home side had one or two moments as they fought to get back in the game, some dangerous crosses flashed across goal, but in truth Lions keeper Danny Berliner, save for one brave tip away, was not unduly troubled.
Lions should really have been out of sight by the break, but some generous refereeing saw them first denied what to all and sundry seemed another nailed on penalty before he ruled that Goodman's header from a corner that went through the keeper's legs had not crossed the line despite what everyone else present thought.
The visitors were expecting an onslaught as the second half began, but instead put the game to bed inside 10 minutes. A superb spell of passing resulted in Lauffer finding himself in the box and able to cut back for Green to strike goalwards. Although his effort was parried by the keeper, Goodman was on hand to smash home the loose ball.
And moments later it was four as Bern chased down the keeper, blocking his attempted clearance and gratefully tapping home the loose ball.
Joseph came on and was soon setting up a Lions fifth, Green striking low into the near corner from the edge of box.
Bern was still causing mayhem - through balls seeing him chip one just over before a rasping drive brought out the best of the home keeper. Lauffer's bullet then cannoned off the far post and back into the keeper's grateful arms ... Lions were rampant.
With 15 to go Lions took their foot off the gas and, much to the frustration of the back four, this saw a fourth consecutive clean sheet taken from them as a fine 25-yarder found the top corner before Green gave away a needless penalty that led to a nervous few minutes as the host's pacy winger caused a few shaky moments ... but Lions held on with no further damage.
With a dozen games gone Lions find themselves top of the league. With other's having games in hand it will take a lot for them to stay there, but for now it is a richly deserved reward for the hard work and fine football played to date.
Lions Reserves: Danny Berliner, Myles Beerman (sub: Ben Joseph), Frank Hyman, Laurence Judah, Shai Revivo, Kyle Bentwood, Ben Lauffer, Liron Mannie, Dan Green, Daran Bern, Nick Goodman
Scorers: Dan Green (2), Daran Bern (2), Nick Goodman