MGBSFL DIVISION TWO
NORSTAR LONDON RAIDERS B 4 FC TEAM C 4
The last 100 per cent record in the MGBSFL fell by the wayside at Brunel, but a sublime touch and finish from David Esterkin in the 89th minute ensured Raiders' unbeaten start to the season continued as two of the form teams in Division Two played out a frenetic 4-4 draw.
FC Team C came in to the game with the form trio of David Cohen, Shim Bensoor and James Joseph looking to help the yellow and blues pull away at the top of the league, but in the chilly lashing rain at Brunel it was the unlikely boot of Raiders' skipper Josh Fineman which broke the deadlock.
Barely 30 seconds were on the clock when Nicky Woolf forced the first corner of the game. Adam Posner's delivery was inch perfect, but somehow Esterkin's header was scrambled off the line. Fineman, however, was on hand to smash home the loose ball to give Raiders a dream start.
On the day FC Team A were unable to recover from going behind to Raiders A team (eventually being crushed 6-0 at the Ark), the C's showed they were made of sterner stuff, equalising within minutes, a mix up in the Raiders defence leaving the Team striker with the chance to curl a delightful shot in to the top corner.
Team were buoyed and midway through the half took the lead through a Cohen penalty after the striker was felled in the box by Gilad Kestenbaum; the spot-kick coolly converted off the post.
This time it was Raiders' turn to respond, another precise corner was met by a majestic towering header from Simon Buchler which bulged the back of the net as the midfielder was mobbed by his teammates - what a way to celebrate his engagement!
The pace of the game did not let up in the second half, even if the rain did. If the first half belonged to Team, all pressing and sharp movement up front, the second was shaded by Raiders who controlled long periods.
With the pressure building at one end, ironically Team broke quickly up the other end to snatch the lead again. Within minutes Raiders had levelled once again, this time through master of the long-range strike Rob Samuelson. The expletive emanating from his mouth as the ball arrowed off his boot might have hinted at a mis-hit cross, but as the ball sailed over the keeper from 30 yards the familiar "Sammy" goal salute was in evidence!
Raiders were filled with belief that they could go on and win the game, Zak McLeod, Andrew McMaster and Matt Greene were thrown in to the fray, and McLeod was millimetres away from connecting with a cross.
Former Raider Rob Sandford was outstanding at the back for Team and when Cohen was again on the end of a quick break on 85 minutes it seemed as if Team had snatched all three points.
Raiders teams of yesteryear might have crumbled, but this year's incarnation demonstrate grit and bottle at every turn, and the last gasp equaliser was the outstanding touch of class in the game. Josh Morris, who was excellent all game on the right, swept a delightful diagonal ball over the Team back line where it was met with the most delicate of first touches by Esterkin who then lifted the ball over the onrushing keeper to secure a point.
Raiders manager Jonathan Adelman felt a point a piece was the right result. "What a ding dong game," he told reporters. "No-one deserved to lose that one. There's no question FC Team are the best side we've played this season and it shows that they have been together for a season or two already.
"We are still gelling and our best is yet to come so its especially pleasing to have come back from behind three times to earn the point, I can't praise the character of my boys enough, they just don't know when they're beaten."