Spartan South Midlands League Division One
Tokyngton Manor 1 London Lions 1
Lions earned a well deserved point at high-flying Tokyngton Manor with Ricky Engleman scoring his first goal for the club.
Tokyngton Manor, lying second in the league table and bolstering the league’s top-scorer Emond Protain with 29 goals in 15 games, would have been the bookies' favourites before the game, especially with Lions inconsistent form. However, Lions have only lost twice in the last nine games.
For the first time in 23 games this season, Lions manager Tony Gold was able to the select the same 11 players that took to the field in the previous game. Adam Myeroff was added to the squad after returning from holiday and young up-and-coming starlet Levi Levenfiche made his first team debut late on.
It was easy to see why Tokynton Manor are where they are in the league; a powerful, strong, hard working side with several players in the team capable of causing a lot of damage if given the opportunity. Lions really had to be up for the challenge and ensure they matched their opponents physically. They didn’t disappoint.
It was first blood to the visitors. Engleman, who has settled in nicely since joining Lions two weeks ago scored his first goal for the club. Great work down the Lions right and involving several players ended with a pass from Daniel Stanton to Engleman. In one stride and composing himself 18 yards from goal, he hit a perfect shot into the bottom corner of the goal giving Tokyngton’s Anton Dejean in goal no chance.
The early goal certainly woke the home side up and for the next 15 minutes Lions were up against it. Unable to curb the pressure and after a couple of scares Tokynton drew level. Ben Lampert and Dean Nyman failed to deal with Carlos Newton’s run down the right and his perfect cross was met by a bullet header from the deadly Protain which flew into the Lions goal.
Aware of the increasing pressure especially in wide areas, Gold and his assistant Steve Grenfell changed from a 4-3-1-2 formation into a regular 4-4-2. The change had an immediate effect as Tokynton’s pressure in wide areas was nullified.
As the first half drew to a close Tokynton almost took the lead, but Mario Cenolli raced off his line and collided with Protain flattening him in the process as his lofted effort headed towards goal only for Kyle Bentwood to race back and hook off the line.
Injury to Bentwood and Engleman meant two early changes into the second half for Lions with Adam Myeroff coming on and moving into centre-half and Ben Ellis coming on wide left.
Lions' approach to the second half was arguably one of the best this season. After all that pressure from Tokynton in the first-half there was only one team in the game in the second-half and it was the visitors.
Nyman, who was so clinical on Wednesday night, had a great opportunity to put Lions in front but his shot across the keeper whistled past the far post when in truth he should have scored.
Lions continued to defend strongly with Morris, Myeroff, Lampert and Berg holding a great line. Josh Kennet started to get more joy in wide areas and was a constant threat all half. David Soutar then had a chance to give Lions the lead but his header from a Kennet cross went straight to the keeper.
Still Lions continued to press and threaten but they just couldn’t muster that opening or clear cut chance that would have given them a deserved win.
In the end the result goes down as a terrific point earned and one the team can and will be proud of.
Lions manager Tony Gold summed up his teams heroic performance “This was a Lions performance full of heart and real character. Two words banded about all the time by football managers but two words that had real significance today.
“Tokyngton are where they are in the league because they are a strong, well organised and difficult to play against they also happen to have a lethal goal-scorer who at this level is deadly. All in all apart from his excellent taken goal, the back four in particular Guy Morris did a fantastic job on him.
“This Lions team has come a long way since the shenanigans of the early part of the season. The last month has seen this group of players grow. They are an honest set of lads, a group who have stuck together when the going got tough and who through that togetherness turned a very difficult corner. They are now enjoying and reaping the fruits of that dedication, loyalty, hard work and togetherness.
“The couple of new additions I have added to the team have fitted in tremendously well and the most pleasing aspect is that I no longer have players here who think this team is all about them.
“Sometimes in life, not just football, you have to go through the hard times to find out what people and players are really all about and it goes without saying that at times this season I have had some of the hardest in my managerial career. The players no longer here showed their true colours by jumping what some assumed was a sinking ship either because they thought they were too good for this level and team or because they didn’t like how things were being run. My principles will never change.”
“It was areat result today, great team performance and as long as the lads continue to show that work ethic and desire moving forward, they will have a great finish to the season."
Asked about several individuals being linked with a return to the club, Gold added: “At this stage I am delighted with the squad as it is. We have some excellent youngsters breaking through and the strength in depth is pretty good in every position. I’m not interested in so-called Jewish superstars who have played at this level and that level especially the ones who think they are owed something.
“Every player here now has earned the right to be a part of this squad. I will happily welcome back any good, quality Jewish footballer who wants to give the time and dedication these current lads have, but by god they will have to earn that right first."