MOLTEN SPARTAN SOUTH MIDLANDS
Chesham United Reserves 1 London Lions 3
London Lions defied the odds in their penultimate game of the season to beat Chesham United Reserves 3-1.
Manager Tony Gold found himself with no less than 20 players unavailable but it mattered little as his men claimed a memorable victory, courtesy of a brace from Ben Ellis and a cracking individual effort from Josh Kennet.
Lions arrived at Chesham with no fewer than 10 first team players unavailable and another 10 doing other things. On arriving, the first team regulars who were involved on the day found themselves lifted when after several weeks of playing on dreadful pitches they were presented with arguably one of the biggest pitches in the country and one of the neatest playing surfaces around for this time of year.
Missing regulars including Daniel Stanton, Aron Barnes, Craig Ellis, Andy Glynne, TJ Keterman, Danny Berg, Ricky Engleman and David Souter and with keeper Mario Cenolli and Sam Sloma in the reserves, the university lads Harry Hatchwell and Cameron Most were called up.
Sickness then robbed the squad of two further players with Danny Berg and Andy Sheena withdrawing late on, meaning a last-minute call-up for Ben Joseph.
Under 16 keeper Sam Singer kept his place in goal after a handful of impressive performances with Harry Hatchwell and Cameron Most starting in holding midfield and right back respectively. Ben Lampert was deployed in midfield, with Josh Kennet. Ben Ellis played up top, supported by Dean Nyman and Matt Stock. Kyle Bentwood, Michael Sacks and Adam Myeroff made up the rest of the back four.
Due to the size of the pitch, it was clear that Lions had to remain extremely disciplined, especially with regards to their shape. It took Hatchwell and Most 20 minutes to adjust to the pace of the game with the latter growing into it as the match unfolded.
Lions seemed to be more comfortable in possession of the ball than their opponents and were playing some lovely intricate football.
The first goal of the game highlighted that intricacy when Most burst past Nyman down in the right-hand channel and delivered a perfect cut back for Ellis who clinically tucked the ball home first time. It was a great team move and a lovely finish from a player who showed what he is capable of when he applies himself correctly.
The goal seemed to wake Chesham up momentarily as they really hadn’t got going mainly down to Lions limiting them to very little.
Lampert was pulling the strings in midfield and working incredibly hard, supported by Josh Kennet and Hatchwell who was now starting to feel the effects of an old ankle problem.
The visitors doubled their lead on 30 minutes with a goal that had Chesham’s management team off their seats applauding. Kennet, who a few weeks ago scored a goal of the season contender against Buckingham Athletic, bettered that effort with a quite stunning finish. Cutting in from the Lions right and about 25 yards from goal he curled a quite exquisite effort past James Weatherill in the Chesham goal leaving the stopper no chance.
Lions then had Singer to thank for two fantastic saves to keep the visitors two-goal lead intact just before the break. Andy Vimry drilled a low shot to Singer’s left which he expertly tipped round the post and then Toby Aiken saw his pile-driver blocked bravely from 10 yards.
The biggest test for the Lions in the second half was seeing whether or not they could keep their discipline and more importantly the ball.
On 55 minutes Hatchwell’s troublesome ankle meant he had to withdraw being replaced by Ben Joseph.
Ten minutes later Ellis scored his second of the day and Lions' third. Great work from Nyman released Ellis in space and full of confidence following his earlier goal, he looked up and placed his finish into the bottom left-hand corner of the Chesham goal.
Nyman was then denied a stonewall penalty with the referee and his assistant the only two individuals in the ground thinking it wasn’t.
For the remaining 25 minutes, Lions started to get a bit casual, believing the three-goal cushion was enough (the Lions faithful remembering what happened at Ampthill weren’t as confident) and the home side took advantage pulling a consolation goal back.
Singer made his first real mistake in three games fumbling a tame shot which the onrushing Aiken gratefully tucked home.
In the final 15 minutes, with Lions under the cosh defensively, Matt Stock was replaced by Gold to sure up the back and prevent conceeding any more needless goals. Lions held on to claim another excellent three points.
Summing up his team’s effort on the day, Lions manager Tony Gold said: "I had forgotten what a proper football pitch looked like because it has been so long since we played on one. Full credit must go out to all the players today.
"We had 10 regulars out and numerous others and yet we still came here and got a great result. In terms of shape and discipline for 75 minutes today that performance was up there with one of our best of the season the lads showed great resilience and character.
"71 points with one game to play is a fabulous return given the start we had to the season and the recent inconsistency of players over the last four weeks. I was asked last week if we had achieved our season’s objectives, we have without question over achieved.
"Hearing that the reserves won their last game of the season with promotion now a distinct possibility was great news and polished off a great day. Hopefully we will be stronger and even more desirable as a club moving forward."
Lions: Sam Singer, Michael Sacks, Adam Myeroff, Kyle Bentwood, Ben Lampert, Harry Hatchewell (sub: Tony Gold), Cameron Most, Josh Kennet, Dean Nyman, Matt Stock (sub: Ben Joseph), Ben Ellis
Scorers: Ben Ellis (2), Josh Kennet
Man-of-the-match: Ben Lampert