MOLTEN SOUTH MIDLANDS LEAGUE RESERVE DIVISION TWO
Kent Athletic 4 London Lions Reserves 1
An afternoon of frustration for Lions as they lost out in the battle of the top two at rain swept Kent Athletic on Saturday.
Lions made a fast start; after barely two minutes they were inches away from leading when Guy Helman's curling 20 yarder over the head of a stranded keeper fell agonisingly the wrong side of the post.
Then Mike Kenley and Nick Goodman both had chances as Lions controlled the early exchanges meaning it was no surprise when they led. Kenley latched onto a ball down the line, looked up and clipped into the box where Ben Joseph got across the keeper at the near post to nod home.
The lead should have been doubled when Jake Gottlieb's flick on found Goodman, but his header was somehow blocked on the line, Lions' skipper then stabbing the ball wide.
A heavy shower made the pitch like an ice rink, and a couple of injuries meant the game lost it's pattern. And then the sucker punch.
With their first effort on goal, arriving after Lions only half cleared a long throw, a half volley flew into the top corner. The real blow though for Lions was an awkward fall by keeper Danny Berliner that saw his game ended; the gutsy Rob Blackman donning the gloves.
Try as he did, and he made a couple of excellent saves, a speculative effort from the better part of 35 yards that would have been a routine catch for Berliner evaded his grasp meaning against the run of play Lions trailed.
The visitors came out in determined fashion and a brilliant move should have seen them level things up. Helman though deciding placement over power, allowing the home keeper to make what was to be fair a very good save.
Goodman was then through but could not get his shot off and Gottleib seemed to have a decent penalty shout when his shirt was pulled as he was about to shoot.
Next it was Nathan's turn, at the second attempt he went for precision, forcing another fine save.
For this profligacy in front of goal Lions were made to pay. Kent are not top of the league for nothing. Defensively they were disciplined and organised while in attack were a constant threat on the break. Blackman made a couple of decent stops to keep Lions within touching distance.
But when Kent broke from a Lions corner to force a corner of their own there was nothing he could do to keep out a close-range header.
Lions battled to the end, creating several more openings, but poor defending late on allowed a shot that squirmed underneath the unfortunate Blackman and left a scoreline that was harsh on the visitors.
Losing your keeper so early will always leave a mountain to climb, especially in such a tough game. However, just like in the defeats earlier in the season, Lions were left ruing what might have been had they taken some of the chances they worked so hard to create.
Ampthill, who've already inflicted defeat on Lions this year, come to Rowley Lane next week, where the hosts will be keen to get back on track.